Tracy's story. 'I’d like to try and change people’s perceptions of homelessness.'
“I was in a rental property for fourteen years. The landlord decided out of the blue that he was selling it. There was no formal eviction notice. After fourteen years, I was given two weeks to move out. Previously we'd always had a good relationship, then he started to harass me. When I left it was awful. The locks were changed and the door closed behind me for good. Saying goodbye to all my neighbours, I couldn’t believe it was happening. I just felt lost.
There were a few people who could put me up for a few nights, but it wasn’t my home, and I couldn’t stay forever. My kids had their own lives. They were only 22 and 25, living in shared houses. I didn’t have anywhere to live. I was also on Disability Living Allowance because I’ve got Sarcoidosis. It’s a rare inflammatory disease that can affect the lungs and brain, but it can also affect most of the body. They said it can’t be cured. I had a form of chemotherapy and injections with high doses of steroids which can make you feel really sick. All my hair fell out. It was horrendous.
Before I became ill I worked all the time. I used to work on the market in Coventry on the fruit and veg stalls. I also worked in the dementia care homes for years. Before I was evicted I had been working part time in two different shops at the time, but I was on a contract with one that was due to end anyway, and the other one was due to close down completely. There was no way I couldn’t afford private rent.
I was advised to go to the council but I didn’t know what they were going to say. They gave me a letter and sent me to the Salvation Army Life House hostel. When I arrived, the whole place was on lockdown. I didn’t know what was happening. My housing officer said the plan was to get me into my own place eventually, but they couldn’t tell me how long it might take. Eventually they sent me to a hotel out of town in a village near where I had grown up. I had actually stayed in that hotel before as a paying guest for weddings and things. It was surreal.
I went from working and living in my own home to living in a hotel, homeless, with no job. I couldn’t believe what my life had come to. After seven weeks, I suddenly received a text message from someone who was an ‘outreach support worker for people in temporary accommodation’, saying I had to leave the hotel by 10am because they had a room for me back at the Salvation Army hostel. I only had half an hour to get there.
When I arrived, I was crying at reception, but the ladies there were nice and said they would look after me. Sometimes it was quiet, other times it was chaos. I was lucky though. The six of us on our landing became firm friends. We’d cook each other meals and look out for each other.
When I was in the hotel and the hostel one of the hardest things was not being able to see my grandchildren properly. It had a knock-on effect with my daughter and her job because I couldn’t help with the babysitting like I used to. They weren't allowed to stay with me in the hostel. My grandkids didn’t like it of course. They would say things like, ‘Does Nanny not love me anymore?.’ My mum was embarrassed. She only had a one bed flat herself. She’d check I wasn’t sleeping on the streets of course, but it’s especially hard for her generation to get their heads around. To her homeless people were drug addicts and criminals and I was now one of them. Now she’s a bit more understanding about homelessness.
I was put into the bidding system with the council and I was deemed high priority because of my disability. Whatever they offered me I had to take it, otherwise I’d be classed as intentionally homeless. I was so worried. I didn’t know what it would be like. Every Tuesday you had to log on to the computer and see if they’d matched you with a property. If it says ‘match’ next to the property, you had to go immediately to see it before they gave it to someone else. Everything has to happen at a million miles an hour when you’re homeless. You can’t afford to miss any chance of anything because nobody waits. There are so many other people needing it.
After seven months in the hostel a match came up. I couldn’t work out where it was though. It looked like it was out in the middle of the woods. I didn’t know what to think, so I just tried be positive and think how I could make it home. It wasn’t clean at that point. There was damage from leaks and things. I thought, I’ve got my work cut out here. But it was ground floor, which was vital, and they give me a decorating grant, plus I still had my furniture in storage with the council. I’ve been there 2 years and I like it now, but it’s long way out of town. When you’re in the hostel, at least you’re surrounded by people, but when you’re out on your own the isolation can be worse.
I came to Crisis the July before I moved in. I didn’t know anything about them before. I did all the classes. I was a member ambassador for a while. They definitely helped. There was lots of opportunities. They really helped to get my confidence back. I’d like to try and change people’s perceptions of homelessness. Now I volunteer at with a homeless charity. I like helping people who come in. They often don’t have a clue which way to turn. They can’t believe I was homeless too.”
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.
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