I came back from 10 days away to no emails from the council after our visit there a couple of weeks ago. The friend who is acting as my advocate sent them an email when I told him this, and got a quick reply that I should soon be able to look for private rented accommodation in the borough, then use their scheme to cover the deposit. Ignoring the fact that I should have been sent this information as soon as I had been approved (with J cc’d), the deposit is not what I am having problems with, as my dad has already offered to pay it (a small but arguably fair recompense for evicting me). The problem I am having is with finding suitable rented accommodation in the first place. Heck, it’s what I’ve been trying to do for the last several months! I was told first in June that I’d have to look for private rentals because the council itself did’t have any accessible properties on their books, but I only went through the council because I was having trouble finding any affordable accessible properties in the whole of London; limiting my search to one borough, even to properties that have agreed to house council tenants, seems doomed to fail. I’d optimistically hoped that if Enfield Council didn’t have any suitable properties then maybe they could refer me on to another council that did, or a housing association that the public can’t access independently. Enfield do have a housing association that works with them, but I’m still waiting to see if I’ve been approved for referral. If I am, then I will have to see if they actually have any accessible properties either. If neither have any, then what?
So where are the wheelchair accessible properties? I’ve found some on general property rental sites during my 8-and-a- bit-month search. They’re generally accessible by coincidence rather than design, and in new blocks of flats that definitely don’t want people like me applying; the kind that have concierges, and pot plants in the hallways. It goes without saying that they are not affordable, even with housing benefit. I could cover the difference for one or two months, and then I’d be out of money and back to square one. It also goes without saying that most properties, accessible or not won’t accept housing benefit, or sometimes ANY:
I suspect the answer is that accessible properties are dying out. The local council used to own many, which got sold off along with much of their general housing stock. The new landlords take out the adaptations, and raise the rent. They can deny installations of equipment needed to help disabled people live independently, and they can evict tenants without good reason just to redecorate a bit then hike the rent up. I haven’t been able to find somewhere to live in almost nine months with a very flexible eviction date, so I don’t imagine I’d do very well with just a month’s notice.Of course, if you can afford to buy your own home and make the necessary adaptations to it, that’s another matter. However, like many disabled people in the UK, I live on disability benefits and am therefore not allowed to save up for a deposit, though I do enjoy imagining the look on a bank employee’s face should I present my financial profile and ask for a mortgage. It seems the wiser thing to do should have been to wait until I had a career, savings, and a mortgage before becoming disabled. Silly me.
Through all this, I am struggling to keep my mental health together. I’ve worked really hard since January’s housing related episode to keep a balance, but when I got the forwarded email yesterday evening, my mood plummeted and I’ve been treading a dangerous line ever since. I can’t seem to engage with the council or think about the process without sacrificing the progress I’ve made since January, and I’m not currently in therapy because the CMHT doesn’t have enough staff to run the group yet (it seems once they’ve decided on the best course of therapy for someone, this can’t be changed due to such trivial things as staff cuts). I’ve spoken to the social worker there before, but she said she didn’t deal with the council because they never picked up the phone, so that’s another line of support cut.
In trying to be proactive, I’m writing this. Angry blogging is my first line of defence. Delegating research to friends who offer help is another. Does the council have a duty of care to appropriately house me, or does their responsibility end at offering me the chance to bid on unadapted properties? How much difference can getting my (shiny new Labour) MP involved make? Or the media? That kind of research. What also helps is that, unusually, I have quite a lot on my plate right now at least writing-wise, but this does rely on keeping the clouds from gathering in my brain. Once I’m fogged with depression, productivity becomes impossible.