‘You’d think if you’re working you’d be able to save money. It’s impossible’


Lou is now a campaigner for Shelter

44-year-old Lou lives in Guildford and is a complex needs carer.  She has two children aged 12 and 19.  She became homeless after separating from her partner.

Earlier this year I became homeless after a traumatic relationship breakdown.  I had to spend two months sleeping on sofas, including my ex-husband’s, still working full time and trying to keep everything together.

It was a catalogue of events that led to me being homeless, with a relationship breakdown as the final straw.  I never envisaged that I would end up without a home, not at all.

The impact of being homeless hit me very hard after the event.  It hit me like tidal wave.  I ended up being signed off work for two months with depression and anxiety.  It’s taken months to get back on my feet.  It had a big impact on my kids, especially my 12-year-old daughter.

I am not eligible for housing benefit, and because my daughter lived with my ex husband while I was homeless, I had agreed to let him take the child benefit. However he wouldn’t let me take it back, which also left me unable to claim tax credits.

This forced me into taking a one bed property. Rent prices are very high in Guildford so it was all I could afford.

I’m now renting a one bedroom flat, my younger daughter stays here part time, but mainly lives with her Dad because we’re so cramped.

Recently my boyfriend moved in. It was partly for financial reasons that my boyfriend moved in. The financial burden without him was just getting too great.  If my boyfriend wasn’t around I’d be seriously close to failing to pay my rent.

I’m behind with my electricity bill.  Where I live has storage heaters and they’re extremely expensive. I’ve been paying £100 a month for them for my electric in a one bedroom flat – and it’s still not enough. I’m behind with that by several hundred pounds.

I couldn’t afford to buy my son a birthday present this year. This Christmas we put a spending cap on the whole family.  We spent between £20-30 each maximum.  That was it.

My daughter is pretty good, her dad is more financially secure so she can go to him, but she does understand my situation.  I’m not one of those people who think you should hide everything from children, because it’s the reality.  You don’t want to expose them to too much, but at the same time if you can’t afford things you can’t afford things and they have to know that.

If my friends are going out and I can’t afford it I am honest with them and tell them I can’t afford it, that’s just me, I’m quite upfront about things.

It makes me feel like a failure.  I’m working. Part of the reason I was worrying that I wouldn’t be able to meet my rent was because I changed jobs. An employer had given me some work and didn’t tell me it was a zero-hour contract and I lost a lot of work, so therefore I lost a lot of money and I nearly lost the flat.

There’s never a cushion.  You’d think if you were working you’d be able to save a little bit every month, but it’s just not a possibility. There’s all sort of things to pay for. I’ve got to keep a car going for my work, there are school costs and so on.

I’d like to go and do some training to better myself and earn more money but how can I do that? I don’t see how I can keep myself living at the same time as doing that and working the amount that I need to so that I can keep us afloat.

Because I’m self-employed the hours I work vary.  I normally work between 30 – 45 hours a week. Some of those days are 12 hour days.  So I work full time every week, and sometimes more than full time.

I’m doing a job that provides a service, just like so many other people. To not be able to afford to live is kind of ridiculous.

I’m fortunate that I have my boyfriend around. I really thought at some point I’d have to move back in with my ex-husband, how ridiculous is that. Or get a bedsit and not live with either of my children.

I just feel that we all need to shout really loudly about what’s going on for people. I’m so angry about it all, and so disappointed that even when I work so hard I still find it hard just to make ends meet.



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