I recently signed up for a project that Shelter is running. It’s part of World Homeless Day on the 10th of October. It has been years since I found myself homeless, but I wanted to use my lived experience to help others.
There are about eight of us who have been brought together via the magic of zoom. They are a friendly bunch, different ages, each with their own unique circumstances behind how they found themselves homeless. Some are settled, whilst others are still waiting for their forever home. The intention is to coproduce some poetry and turn it into a short film to help launch the annual event.
However, the first session didn’t get off to a good start for me. I felt like a complete fraud when someone asked about my current housing status. There were gasps from other members when I shared how I am now in a fortunate position to be in stable accommodation and mortgage-free. I found myself back tracking and explaining to them that it hadn’t always been like that. Just another reminder of how fortunate I am to be in the position I am today
Let me take you back…
I shouldn’t have gone back to him after being released from the hospital, but at the time, I had nowhere else to go. I’d only been back at the family home a few weeks before I had made my mind up that I couldn’t stay any longer. However, the lady at the council office had taken more convincing. I bore no signs or evidence of physical abuse, but I was emotionally broken. I had to explain how I would end back up in a mental institution again if I was made to go back. After many checks to confirm my story, she finally agreed to rehouse me and offered me a temporary furnished flat that very day.
Thankfully, I was already familiar with the location and the area. In fact, my aunt used to live across from the very same flats years earlier. As kids, we would play knock a door run in them or use the outside bins rooms to smoke a crafty fag. I silently hoped that the kids nowadays had stopped playing that game because the last thing I needed was more torment in my life. My flat was located on the top floor, which provided me with some spectacular views of the Gleadless Valley estate where I grew up.
Happy memories flooded my mind from the days when I was young, happy and carefree, and I wished I could turn back time and right some of the shit decisions I’d made as a young adult.
My temporary flat might not have been much, but it was perfect for me. It provided me with some much-needed headspace. But I was still being haunted, taunted by my ex, who would plead with me to go back. He would use the kids as bargaining tools. Accuse me of being a bad mother for upheaving the kids from their comfortable and familiar home. And refused point-blank to let me take any furniture with me. Not even the kid’s beds. Nothing he said worked though. For me my priority was rebuilding my mental health, which was far more important than any material objects that could be replaced, eventually.
I’d only been in my flat a few weeks and was just starting to settle in when one of the support staff excitedly informed me that the council had offered me a property to view. I just wished I’d shared her excitement. The new place was literally down the road from where I was currently staying. It was a three bedroomed ground floor maisonette. The area had a reputation for being rough, but I wasn’t bothered. I would have taken anything if it meant I didn’t have to return to my old home or to my old life.
As I approached the new property, some of the neighbours were stood outside, chatting. I could feel their eyes burning into the back of my head, sizing me up, and I wondered if I would get along with them. Before arriving, I had secretly hoped that the previous tenants might have left some furniture, but as I entered the house, it was apparent they hadn’t. You didn’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to realise the place had been neglected, and it was going to take some time and TLC to fix up. A little bit like myself.
Home is where the heart is
I finally had my own place
But I was still scared and alone
And it certainly didn’t feel like home
An empty shell
Something I could relate too well
I didn’t know where to start
Or if I even if I had the heart
My identity had been smashed to smithereens
Everything wasn’t what it seemed
I would try to make out I was ok
Just to keep social services at bay
But I was a shadow of my former self
I was still suffering from poor mental health
I’d been offered a place in an unfamiliar estate
I was estranged from my family and my mates
I felt isolated and alone
As I inspected my new home
It was clear that the previous tenants hadn’t treated it well
It had an odd odour
An unfamiliar smell
The wallpaper was damaged
Much of it beyond repair
And all the floors are bare
I had no furniture to my name
And once again
I’m filled with shame
I’m trying my best to be optimistic
But inside, I want to go ballistic
“How the fuck am I going to cope”
I had little or no hope
I have nothing to call my own
Just the shell of a new home
I just want to stay in my interim furnished flat
But I’ve been told that this is my only option
And that I have no other choice
And I am reminded once again
I’m just another addict
Another single parent
Without a voice
Providing a roof over someones head is just the tip of the iceberg. I am proud to be able to use my past experience to help educate/influence providers/commissioners. If you have any concerns about any housing issue, get in touch with Shelter Or if you want to find out more about World Homeless Day click here
Thank you for taking the time to read.
Remember I don’t write for financial reward or gain, I just want to help share my lived experience with others in the hope that it helps. And I just love to write, so if ya fancy getting the occasional email with the most up to date blogs from yours truly, please feel free to subscribe at the bottom of the main page.