Lou has moved six times in four years and was made homeless after a relationship breakdown. She is a mother of two and lives in Guildford, Surrey where she works full-time.
I split up with my husband in 2010. He kept the house and I moved to a one-bedroom flat nearby. My son moved in with me and my daughter stayed with me half the time. I lived there for two years.
It wasn’t big enough for us; my 13-year-old son had the bedroom and my seven-year-old daughter and I slept on the sofa bed together in the lounge.
I found a two-bedroom cottage with an attic room, so we were able to have our own bedrooms. We were really happy there but after eight months, the landlady wanted the property back so, I was served a Section 21 notice.
After searching extensively, I found a three-bedroom place which was on the bus route to my children’s schools. It was right at the top end of what I could afford. The deposit was the equivalent of a couple of months’ rent. On top of this I paid charges for the cleaning of the property and inventory among other fees. That move alone cost me over £3000.
It’s only because of the support of my friends and family that I was able to scrape together the money.
The village was nice and I could imagine being settled there but the conditions were bad: a terrible leaky roof and mould growing on the upstairs ceiling bedroom.
The owners moved abroad to start a new life, but when things didn’t work out for them, they returned to the UK and wanted their property back, so I was served notice.
I wasn’t given much time to leave and finding a place. I lost two potential flats because they wouldn’t allow me to move out of the property earlier.
When they got back to the UK and discovered how bad the conditions were, they tried to withhold my deposit in order to cover the cost of essential repairs.
I found myself in a very stressful situation; I had borrowed the deposit money from friends and family, it wasn’t mine and I needed to get it back. So I went through the judicial system to challenge the landlord and estate agents and get my deposit back.
Going to court was very stressful but I got about 70% of my deposit back and felt vindicated. The process is tough for renters and the outcomes are uncertain.
I borrowed more money from my family to rent a place in a nearby town.
Around that time, I met a man. After five months, he asked me to move in with him.
The relationship didn’t work out and it ended very traumatically earlier this year and I was made homeless.
I spent two months living on sofas, including my ex-husband’s, still working full time and trying keep everything together.
Of course you need family and friends, but if you don’t have a home, you don’t have any security.
I jokingly called myself the bag lady because I had loads of bags in my car and went from place to place. I didn’t want to stay with anyone for more than three days because I didn’t want them to feel burdened by me.
It’s an incredibly difficult way to live. There are all sorts of practical issues like eating, getting your washing done. You can never relax. I was holding down a job through it all.
I found a flat with an all-inclusive rent and I was able to get financial support from the council. I said to my friend “Thank God, I’ve moved somewhere that I can stay” because the landlord wanted someone long-term.
I applied for housing benefit because although I work full time, over 50% of my income went on rent.
A week later I got an email from my landlord telling me that if I didn’t withdraw my claim for housing benefit immediately, he would evict me. He forced me into a very difficult situation.
Fortunately for me, the property I’m now in became available. The landlords are lovely people who offered me a lucky break.
I’m back in the village I started off in. It’s affordable but I’m still paying half my wages on rent. I’m constantly being creative with my finances so I can make ends meet.
I’m just grateful I’ve got a roof over my head and some stability. The children are now happy. But the whole journey has been incredibly traumatic for all of us and has had a negative impact on our mental wellbeing.
What this experience has taught me is that life will beat you down, and you have to stand up. With the help of family and friends, that’s what I’ve done. You have to keep moving forwards. As far as I know, this is my stable home now. I’m relieved, but I say it tentatively. If I never move again it will be too soon.
My experience of being homeless has knocked my own confidence and confidence in other people.
I worry about my son when I think of the future. He’s living with his father in overcrowded conditions because I can’t provide a home for him. I don’t know how he’ll afford a place of his own. I hope that things will change.