Post divorce, I found myself on a low income and back in the rental market . With three school age children and a full time job, where I could live was limited not only financially but also geographically. We began by sharing a decent one bedroomed flat which took around 90% of my monthly income. After six months the over crowding became ridiculous and I managed to find a run down but slightly cheaper two bedroom flat. The landlord promised to do the necessary work and we moved.
We remained in that flat for almost five years, though the landlord broke every promise he made. The already decrepit bathroom was finished off by a leak which we endured more on than off for three years before the landlord finally had it properly repaired. By this point the kitchen floor was rotten through water damage and the plaster in the kitchen, bathroom and corridor was crumbling off the walls. There was black mould throughout the flat. The wall my ten year old son slept near was often wet rather than damp. The kitchen taps did not work and the room itself so unpleasant that we stopped cooking.
I began leading a double life. Out of the flat I was happy, successful and positive. In the flat I just went to bed. My daughter developed depression and her school attendance dropped dramatically. If she was not finding a way to stay with friends, she stayed in bed. My son developed asthma and went from being a jolly, sweet boy to a child who was worried about everything and very emotional. In time my younger children became occasional visitors rather than full members of our home, as being at their dad’s house was so much better for them.
In 2013 we hit crisis point. The local council forecast it would take another five years to find us social housing, yet my salary was such that I could not afford anywhere else. Ultimately I took a leap in the dark, asked family for help in scraping a deposit together, and took on a rent 50% higher than before.
Over night our health and well being improved. We were still stuck in the poverty trap – but we were the lucky ones. I have a permanent full time job and a reasonable salary. We have amazingly supportive family and friends. Many people don’t have that safety net.