Laura is in her thirties and is a mother to two children. She was made homeless after being attacked. When the council didn’t take her case seriously, Shelter got involved and fought for a safe place for her family to live.
I became homeless after I was attacked. I feared for my life. I wasn’t sure what to do, I didn’t have a plan but I knew my kids and I needed to leave the area. I couldn’t go to my family because I feared I would put them in danger as well.
That day I drove to a totally new place, somewhere I just picked out where I had been before. I went to the council and they didn’t believe that I had been attacked despite the fact I had bruises. They said no, you’re not in danger at all, and told me to go home.
So that night I slept in the car with my children.
The council were consistently unhelpful. Once I went to the council and I was in a queuing system and I needed to feed my kids. I had food which just needed heating up but the council wouldn’t let me do it on their premises because of health and safety and they told me to go away. So then I had to lose my place in the queue which I’d been waiting in all day.
I looked everywhere for help. Then I went to Shelter, and they were fantastic. They let us stay in the office from morning to night. It was a really hot summer and we had nowhere to go. We’d been walking around the streets before that.
I started fighting, with the help of my Shelter solicitor. The council took me on because of the pressure from Shelter. The council put me into B&Bs, but kept moving me around. The first B&B was horrendous. They put us in a tiny room in the loft, with a lock that didn’t work. We had to share a toilet which was the size of an aeroplane toilet.
For two months we did that, changed B&Bs like you wouldn’t believe. It was like changing underwear, not that I had much underwear to change into, but that’s how many times we changed B&B. Often they’d tell us we’d have to leave, we’d pack up all our stuff and we’d walk around all day, and then I’d have to wait until 4pm to get a telephone call to tell us where we are going, and sometimes it was back to the same place. I don’t know why they did that to us.
The housing officer made me go over and over the story of what happened in front of the children, I kept saying to her – the children, the children, but she wouldn’t stop. It gave them nightmares.
One night I went out of the room to wash the sheets and when I came back the children were huddled together and crying and my daughter said mummy we thought they’d taken you , we thought you’d gone. And it was because that woman had gone over and over the incident. As if my children hadn’t been through enough already.
My housing officer even put our safety at risk. She told the person I was fleeing from where I was, because she rang to verify my story. At that point I became suicidal, because she’d ruined my safe place as well.
Eventually I got myself into a women’s refuge in a different area because I went and spoke to anyone possible that I thought could help me. I needed to move area because we were now at risk because the housing office had exposed where we were.
The fear that I felt, that I still sometimes I feel now, was very real. I tried to explain to the housing office – I wouldn’t have up and left a place where my disabled child had a lot of professional and family support, just for the hell of it.
This has changed my life like you wouldn’t believe, it has been horrendous.
What made it worse was that everything was reliant on getting a house. We couldn’t have help from social services, the behavioural team to support my son, none of them would take part until we were housed.
I have finally been housed now. We moved into our new place three months ago and things are so much better already. We still have a lot of problems that need sorting out for my son because the last year has had a really bad effect on him. I’m still fearful and I’m plagued with loneliness because I don’t know anyone in this area.
But the difference in the last couple of months to being in the refuge is incredible. We’ve got space, there is a garden. Everything is beginning to work out.
And through all of this, my daughter has done amazingly, she’s at primary school and her assessment has put her well above the national average, she’s a year ahead in her abilities. She’s doing fantastically well.
That really made me feel better, I thought I’d ruined them with all this. I didn’t know what to do for the best.
My son’s report was fantastic as well, he’s really picked up, and he’s doing well, and his report said he was a massive testament to me and everything that we have been through.
At first I didn’t think I’d done the right thing, fleeing like that, and I’m just starting to believe that maybe it was the right thing. And I still have a little bit more fight in me so I’m going to make sure they’re ok.
Shelter could be there for Laura when she needed help the most.
But thousands more need us – and by donating, you have the power to change the lives of more families like Laura’s
Shelter provides free expert advice. Our helpline advisers will help and support you no matter what your situation is. Call our free helpline 0808 800 4444, lines are open every day.
*To protect the identity of our case study, her name has been changed and a model was used in photography.