In fourteen months I have moved six times.
I was seven months in the refuge. The worst thing was the case worker. I was dependent on her. She used to ask me questions like: “Where are you going? Where are you coming from?’” In the morning, when the children were asleep she used to knock on the door like a jailer. If I said the children were sleeping she would say: “This is not the time for the children to sleep.’” Cleaning the house was a shared job: they would pick on you and say: “Look she hasn’t cleaned properly..’”
They stretched out my stay because there was no one else who wanted that room and they got £220 a week for my room, and they could save money by not putting the heating on.
Then the Council moved me to Harrow - to be far from my husband. I had no help to move my two children and could not afford a cab. My daughter’s first birthday we spent sitting in the Harrow Council offices all day. Then I was given emergency accommodation for that evening - one small bedroom with three beds in a big house. No space to walk between the beds. But I thought ‘at least I am out of the refuge’. But everything like the grocery shop was a long way away. I had to walk a long way for my daughter’s milk. After one month I received a call from the caretaker from the Lodge at 11 pm at night and I was told ‘Tomorrow morning you must go to the Council and speak to them’ So I was there at ten o’ clock in the morning. They told me ‘Sign these papers and you have to move today. ‘
‘How can I move today?’ I said. ‘You only have two hours,’ they said.
‘At least give me till evening’ I said.
They said: “Talk to the caretaker.” When I came back to the Lodge the caretaker said, “You must leave in one hour because another family is coming.” I said: “the council said I have till this evening”
He said: “The Council did not contact us. If you want to stay till evening the council must write to us because this family was sent to us by the Council.” They were at my room’s door saying, “You must move in one hour.’
When I asked the Council for help to move they said: ‘You are only three people you should have only three suitcases’. I had my bedding, my kitchen things...... spoons, plates I cannot just throw these things away..
I was crying. Because like all normal days I was preparing to cook - clothes were out for the wash, things were in the freezer...... everything was in a mess. From morning till night my children and I ate nothing, we kept packing, packing. My kind neighbour said, “ I will help you.... leave all your things in my room.” I threw all the things into her room.... when I came back she helped me to take the things to the other place.
It was me and my 11 year old son who did all the shifting and pulling...
The next place was also emergency accommodation. A guest house. Again I had one room: but everywhere was better than the refuge. And the people were all right because we all had our own room and our own life. We were there exactly six weeks. It is a rule you cannot be in emergency accommodation for more than six weeks.
Next time they called me at five o’ clock in the evening. “You have to move by ten in the morning.” My son had to go to school. Again we tried and tried to be ready by ten. “You have to leave, ten o’ clock means ten o’ clock,” they said. But the cleaners were helpful they said, “We will close our eyes.” And they were also shocked.
At that time I was not feeling well nor was my daughter.
By one o’ clock I moved, I left a few things in the fridge, they said “That’s fine”.... I just took milk and cooked food.
This place was a big hostel, it used to be an old hospital they turned it into a lodge and I got one room on the first floor at the end of the corridor. It was very dirty, the basins were so dirty and there were crisps under the mattress and blood stains on the mattresses and the toilets were a long way away. My son has a problem of bowel incontinence. I had to leave my daughter in the room on her own when I accompanied my son. I was being picked up ‘against health and safety on child’ for this. And the toilets were extremely dirty.
My daughter burned her hand on the kettle, we had to keep it in the room because things got stolen from the kitchen.
That place was so far away just to get to the main road you needed a bus.
We were there five months. Then they called me again: ‘There is a place if you want to go there. This is the only place we can offer. They said, “If you do not accept this you will be off the Homeless List because you will count as ‘deliberately homeless.’”
So I quickly said, “ Yes” because at least we were getting our own toilet and kitchen.
Then finally, when I got this place it was Ramadan and I was fasting and I had to move during fasting. They said, “You can take your time and do your shifting and take two or three days.” But when I went to the Lodge they said, “You have to move now because they are sending more people.”
I had a fear that if I said I cannot move now they would take away this place. But still i took a stand because it was Ramadan and I said i cannot do this in a day. Not even a day, they were saying, by this afternoon. Then the taxi driver came and he said, “You have to pay me more if I have to wait”. I was arguing all ways.
Finally I moved to this place. After two days they gave me a bed and dining table. And now we are there. But it is insecure tenancy, anytime they can move us again.