I’m sorry for the gap between posts. I’ve had a cold and apparently when you’re already chronically ill, a cold turns into “three weeks of being mostly asleep”. Not that much has happened in terms of housing; the council move at a rate that doesn’t exactly suggest that they work with people in danger of becoming homeless. Also, a couple of weeks ago the Guardian’s Disability Diaries , which I was a contributor to, were published and there’s been a lot of good feedback. I hope it helps in a small way to change public preconceptions about disability of all kinds.
Before I “update” (spoiler: no actual progress) I will share some exciting news. I finally decided to make a Patreon page. Readers of this blog are, of course, under no obligation to sign up, but this blog is just one small aspect of what I hope to be able to do in terms of disability awareness and activism. Already I’ve reached my first funding goal, which means I’ll be meeting with a designer next week to revamp the style of this blog, ahead of registering a domain name. Fancypants!
So, the housing saga, and it is a saga at this point. It’s almost a year since I was told to find somewhere else to live as soon as possible, and I keep hopping back and forth aimlessly between the council and private rental options. Neither have been productive.
This month I’ve been focussing on the council, as I received a letter last month telling me that the “medical officer” had written to my GP to verify my various health claims (so that I could be referred to the council’s “housing association” partner). First problem – aside from the fact I went through four GPs there in a year due to them all leaving or retiring, my surgery closed down at the start of October after failing its CQC inspection. I had an appointment with the named GP at my new surgery last week to explain my housing needs and she seemed understanding and receptive, though I feel bad asking already-overstretched doctors to do things like this, when I’ve already uploaded reams of medical evidence to the council’s housing denier bot. Second problem – As I learnt in January when my mental health took a nosedive, the hospital mental health team’s notes don’t get copied to the GP’s system, so this sent me into a small tizzy when I realised that a GP would be unable to confirm the mental health history I had outlined to the council. Trying to rectify this was a small saga in itself:
I called the council, on the number at the top of the letter. There was a housing extension there, but as it turns out, the officer was there only for questions about rent. Any other housing queries had to be sent to the Housing Office. No there is no direct number, or email address. No he could not pass a message onto the Medical Officer, because they didn’t work in the same building. So, lacking any other option, I went back to the wretched hive of scum and villainy known as the Enfield Housing Office. “Do you have an appointment?” No, because there is no way to make an appointment. I took a seat as requested, and watched various vulnerable people having their needs denied. Eventually my number was called and I wrote down the information to be passed onto the medical officer. “She’ll call you, wait here and she’ll call you” “Is she not here?” “No, she’s upstairs”
So, I sat in the Housing Office for 90 minutes until someone who couldn’t be bothered to come downstairs and talk to me phoned me instead to verify that yes, someone had passed on the post-it note with the mental health team’s details. How very dehumanising.
Then, on the 22nd of November, a text from a lettings agency:
“Enfield Homefinders have forwarded your contact details” – without my permission to do this, I might add. They included a link to a property on RightMove. It is not wheelchair accessible. So, the council gave a third party my phone number so they could advertise properties to me, without also passing on my access needs (which go beyond just needing level access). Superb. I was polite in my reply, but made it clear that I didn’t want either of our time being wasted by being offered unsuitable properties. I strongly suspect that this is nearing the extent of what the council will actually do for me, although I’m not aware of what their legal obligation is if they don’t actually have any suitable properties themselves.