Samantha, originally from London, lives in Tilbury Town, Essex, with her three sons aged 1, 10 and 13.
I’d rented my home for seven years, since my marriage ended. I knew for a while that I would be evicted. The landlady wanted her property back.
I told the council I was being evicted and that I couldn’t afford a new place to rent.
They told me to wait for the end of the eviction process, then come down with my suitcases. They made it sound so simple, like I’d be housed right away.
On the day I was evicted, I went to the council and they offered me a place in Birmingham. I said, “I’ve got a job here, my children’s school is here, I’ve just had a baby, all my family support, my connections are here, everything. I need to be in London.”
I could be a bit out of London but I couldn’t make it work if I lived further out. They put that down as a refusal of accommodation.
Then the council sent me to a hotel in east London. From the outside I knew I wasn’t going to stay there. The place was filthy, the carpet was threadbare and it looked like it had been urinated on.
There were cockroaches, the kitchen had one tiny little fridge, two cookers and nothing else. It was filthy dirty, no health and safety, no storage for food. There were two ladies in there, one was too scared to talk to me and the other one didn’t speak English.
I was shown upstairs to my room.
There was mould up the walls and the headboard was falling off. The beds looked like they had been pulled off the street. It was vile. I didn’t even want to breathe the air in there so I ran out of there with the baby.
I went to the council to explain that the place they sent me to wasn’t suitable. They sent me to another place, another B&B. It was a nightmare too. I would rather lay my baby down on the concrete in the street than in those places they were sending me.
Then they said they would send me to Hertfordshire. I said “It’s too far, how would my kids commute to school from there?” That was put down as another refusal, and said they would dismiss my case.
We slept on blow-up beds in my mum’s lounge for seven months. We lived on top of each other. I felt so incapable of being a proper mother, of providing for my kids.
We had always been comfortable before. I’d done my best. I’d gone to work and we had a nice house. When we didn’t have anything, it was devastating, it was horrible.
A friend suggested I talk to Shelter to see if they could help. I’d never heard of them before. I went to the Shelter office in Stratford and saw an adviser, Richard.
Richard was no-nonsense. I showed him my evidence of communication with the council and he said that they had not behaved in the correct way and wrote a letter to the council which I took to them immediately.
They asked me to come back in the morning. So I went back to my mum’s and a few hours later, the council called and said something has just come through, and it was a temporary accommodation flat in East London.
If it wasn’t for that Richard’s advice and that letter there is no way I would have got anything from the council.
Without the letter and I’d still be sleeping in my mum’s living room and if it wasn’t for her we’d be on the street.
Our story didn’t end there. A few months after we moved into the temporary accommodation flat, the landlord decided to sell it. I went back to Shelter, who again spoke to the council. The council then offered me a housing association house out in Essex and told me that was all they had, I could take it or leave it.
I was crying my eyes out on the way there, it was such a long way away. But as soon as I arrived I loved it. I wanted to live there.
I feel very homely in this house and I’m grateful for it. I do feel alone though. I don’t go out, I just go to the shop and pick up my son from school. I can’t go and see anybody because it’s going to cost me money on the train. But then, I’m a homely person and I’ve got the kids.
Without Shelter I would still be homeless. I think what Shelter does is fantastic, I would back them and support them always.