‘I have felt as low as it is possible to feel’

Samantha, from Dartford has been on the waiting list for a home for almost six years. On average, she has moved once every three years. She lives with her three children and works in a charity shop.

Samatha

Samantha

To begin with, I was private renting and then my landlord sold up. I had two young sons and I couldn’t find anywhere affordable to rent. It seemed like no landlord would accept housing benefit.

I was able to get a place through a housing association which was lovely. We were really happy. But I had a problem neighbour and one day she assaulted me in front of my children. It was awful. So I went to the council and asked for help.

They put us in a hostel, which my sons still refer to as the “blood house”. The first night we stayed there, we saw man sitting in the lounge. He’d beaten up so bad his eyes were swollen shut, his lips were swollen, he had blood all over him and it was all up the stairs and in the bathroom where he’d tried to wash. My sons went grey and said ‘Mum, please don’t make us stay here.’ But we had no choice.

We were moved into a decent house, again temporary accommodation. It was a lovely house but the rent was really high. It was the most amount I’ve ever had to pay. I was told I had to take it but that I shouldn’t worry because it wouldn’t be for long and it would all be covered by housing benefit, but it wasn’t.

We ended up staying there for three years. I struggled to pay the rent and I got behind. I kept telling the council that I was getting behind on rent and when my arrears reached £1,000, I went to see the council. I asked for them to move me to somewhere affordable but they refused because I was in arrears.

Samantha

Samantha

I changed from working part-time to full-time to try and bring more money in. My sons found it really difficult as they were at school Monday to Friday 8am-6pm and I barely saw them. My priority was to feed my children, but I would often miss meals.

I went back and saw the council and said I just can’t clear the arrears. I got an eviction notice and the council refused to house me. I was so worried we would end up homeless.

In the end I had to go to court to be evicted and I saw a legal adviser at the court, who argued that the council should never have put me in somewhere so expensive, and persuaded the court to make the council wipe off a lot of the debt and help me.

The council agreed to give me a rental deposit loan but I had to go back to privately renting. We found somewhere but then the landlord decided to sell the property, which has left us homeless again.

I had to go back to the council again, and they have put me in this temporary accommodation flat. It’s ok but it’s not big enough, my five-year-old daughter is sleeping on a mattress on the floor in the same room as me and everything is in boxes. We’ve put a lot of her toys in storage. I’ve been told we could be here a long time.

Samantha and her five-year-old daughter

Samantha and her five-year-old daughter

I’ve just found out that I am affected by the benefit cap because the rent here is so expensive it takes me over the limit. So I’ve got even less to live on now.

The insecurity of our housing situation has affected our quality of life.  My boys are now 19 and 17, and it’s been awful for them.  When we were told we were being evicted from our previous home, my oldest son said: ‘I can’t keep doing this Mum, where are they going to send us?’  Both my sons are doing really well at college and the council were talking about sending us to Manchester.

I manage to hide a lot of my stress from my five-year-old daughter. I’ve been stressed and cried but I don’t do it in front of her. She’s struggling with not having much of her stuff around and the fact we can’t make where we live into a proper home. And it sounds silly but we miss our pets which we had to give up. I can’t promise my daughter that we’ll ever get them back, as I don’t know where we will end up.

I have felt as low as it is possible to feel. I’ve thought ‘I can’t keep a roof over my kid’s heads, what is the point?’  I feel like a really bad parent. I felt useless and pointless. That’s how living like this makes you feel.

If we got offered social housing, it would give us security. I feel like a traveller, we’re always living out of boxes and bags, in other people’s places. I’m 40 and I feel like I’m treated like a child: I’m still getting told I can’t do what I want, off you go, go and live somewhere else. We just need a home.

Shelter gives free expert housing advice. Visit our advice pages  or  call our helpline free on 0808 800 4444.

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