‘It’s difficult to be happy when we’re all under so much stress’

Sharon is a bus driver from London. She rented in east London, with her four children for many years, but when her landlord decided to sell the property, she couldn’t find anywhere affordable to live. She has been on the council waiting list for eight years.



I went to the council for help after we had to leave our home and they put me into a hostel in Redbridge, and then eventually into the flat we now live in. We’ve been on the council waiting list for a home for eight years.

I have worked hard all my life. I’ve paid tax and national insurance. I’ve never fully depended on benefits, I’ve always worked. I enjoy my job but it’s difficult to be happy when my children and I are under incredible stress, caused by the uncertainty of our living situation.

I have four children: two girls aged 21 and 17, a six-year-old son, and a 15-month-old baby daughter. I am constantly worried for my mental health and my children’s state of mind.

I have been on the housing list for eight years. I have been placed in emergency accommodation four times.

The place we live in now (I can’t call it a home) is unsuitable and overcrowded. It is ten miles away from the area I know best, and I’ve just been told I have to leave it, because of the overcrowding.

My son has hearing loss, which has caused speech delay of around two years. He goes to a school which has provision for deaf children. The school has been essential to his sense of security and support.

The teachers understand and help him. He has a wonderful rapport with his learning support teachers and friends. He loves to learn.

Sharon's son

He finds change very, very difficult.  He needs to be in a secure and settled environment and he needs adequate space.

His behaviour has changed rapidly. We’ve been moving from home to home and away from his family support network. He shows signs of feeling isolated and withdrawn and he is unable to socialise and feel comfortable with the change.

I cannot cut my hours as I need my job.  But there are times when it is difficult to get to work on time after taking my son to school and daughter into nursery because we have been moved out of the area where my son goes to school.

I try not to get my son in late because this makes him unable to settle as his routine has been ruined.

The council provides transport for him to get to school but this is difficult as well, he finds it very tiring and stressful and sometimes he takes out his hearing aids on the bus and then loses them.

In order to keep on working, I have to leave my son and daughter at my mother’s house, so we are split up. This makes my son very upset as he wants to be with me.


I feel like giving it all up and just claiming benefits as it is all just too stressful, but don’t want to give up my work as I enjoy working and I like my job.

The place we live in now is inadequate and overcrowded. The entrance and backdoor stairs leading into the garden are steep and hazardous, both children are very scared and wary of going up and down them, my son has to grab and clutch onto me whilst I’m holding the baby when walking up and down the stairs which, in my view, is not safe.

My son has moments of high emotions and bangs his head on the window sill and heater where his bed has to be placed.  He always wakes sneezing and has headaches because of the draughts and damp in the bathroom and also because of the outside noise of cars and people.

My son desperately needs permanent, adequate and suitable housing for his needs, where he doesn’t feel frustrated.  He needs to be in a structured environment with a structured routine where he can also sit and learn, and feel comfortable to do homework.

He feels cramped and uncomfortable to have to eat his dinner on the settee which frustrates him and he gets confused when he can’t explain how he feels as we can’t understand him. Is it right for a child to live this way?

I have developed back and chest pains and I have become depressed and isolated. My two older children constantly argue and bicker as they share the same room.

They have health problems due to stress and anxiety and on the top of that due to all this upheaval and other stress, my sixteen-year-old has now started to self-harm, which is pushing me to the edge.

These past few years have been so stressful not having a stable home that we can call our own. All I ask is a home where we can have a happy family life, for once not to be pushed here and there. I work very hard, this is no fault of my own.

I have paid my rent and council tax and I’m in this situation. I think it’s wrong for a working single parent family to be living like this.

Shelter provides free, expert housing advice on emergency accommodation and applying for council housing.

The charity Mind provides advice and support to anyone facing a mental health problem. Find details of your nearest service.

*Names have been changed and a model has been used to protect the identity of the case study.



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