Florence's story. 'My son has a serious medical condition.'
“My son has a serious medical condition. He’s been in hospital several times and just recently it was for six months straight. I had to stay with him every day.
I was living in Luton in private accommodation and I was also on housing benefit, but that didn’t cover the shortfall in the rent, so I got into arrears and I was told I was going to be evicted.
I didn’t want to wait until I was on the street with my son so I left the property and went to the council, but they said that I was intentionally homeless because of the rent arrears, and because I had left too soon in the eviction process. Apparently there are four stages in the eviction process and I left at the third, but I didn’t realise that.
I explained that I’d tried to find part time work but I couldn’t get anything that fitted around my son’s medical needs. I even tried to get him into after school clubs so I could work, but the nurse who looks after him when I’m not there can’t stay with him after school. And what employer would give me six months off to sit with my child in hospital?
I’m originally from London so I came back to my council here to see if they would assist me instead, but because I was found intentionally homeless in Luton they said they can’t help me here either.
Now I’ve been sleeping rough for a couple of days while my son is staying with a friend until my situation improves.
The council said I have to find private accommodation but they don’t help with deposits anymore so how am I supposed to get that money when I’m not working, How can I do it? And then if you’ve been sanctioned, that ends up affecting your job-seekers allowance, so it’s like a catch 22 situation. When I try to get help I feel like I’m going round in circles and just banging my head against a brick wall.
Even though I’m homeless I still try and make myself look clean and presentable, but while I’m on the street it’s also not hygienic, and my son’s condition means that he could get infected. If that happened I’m afraid I might get the blame and social services will take him away.
I haven’t started begging for money on the street yet, it hasn’t come to that stage, but I can understand when you’re desperate. You can’t sign on, you’ve got no money, you’re hungry, what do you do? How do you eat? Who’s going to help you?
People look at you in a certain way when you're homeless. They look down on you. People just walk by you and ignore you like you’re nothing. That could be any body. I’m in that situation myself, but I never thought that would be me.
My hope is just to find some suitable accommodation. Somewhere just secure and stable. I need some stability in my life.”
By sharing stories we can change attitudes and build a movement for permanent, positive change. Stand against homelessness and help us end it for good.