Will I ever share good news to do with housing? Well, one day I hope to but today is not that day. When you’re dealing with a department as shambolic, uncommunicative and Kafkaesque as the council’s housing department, you have to cross your fingers and pray that all other agencies involved are on the ball. That appears not to have happened.
This afternoon I spent 40 minutes in an airless back office that smelt of feet, waiting for the results of the Great Bureaucratic Incompetence-Off. I knew that the council had sent a form (plus a freepost envelope!) to my GP back in October – I knew this because it had been put into the system shortly before I had an appointment in November, and the GP I saw had told me her colleague would be doing it soon. I also knew that it was now five and a half months later, and I had seen zero progress as far as housing went – but also that sometimes the council needed something akin to 20,000 volts up the arse to do anything with the information they themselves had requested. However, an afternoon at the housing office is only slightly more preferable to one spent having a filling without anaesthetic, and I assumed that finding anything out from the GP’s office would be somewhat easier than dealing with staff at the housing office (you know those characters in videogames who have important things to say to you but you can’t ever work out the right thing to make them say it?). I guess in retrospect 40 minutes in an eau-de-pied office surrounded by broken blood pressure machines was better than [time doesn’t actually exist in a housing office] the alternative.
“There’s a queue, dear”, said the receptionist, when I asked her to look up the letter on the system, and see if anyone had “actioned” it (arrgh, not a verb, I refuse to accept it).
I was aware there was a queue, I had waited in it for 10 minutes, and now I was at the front of it. “Can’t you come back another time?” Mindful of the ‘aggression will not be tolerated’ rules laid out on laminated pages on the counter, I aimed for ‘snippy but polite’ and pointed out that there was always a queue and by the standards of queues I’d been in there, this was quite a mild one. Five minutes later I found myself guided to the back office by the reception manager, and left for 20 minutes or so while she tried to find out some more information. She returned holding the sheaf of printouts that the first receptionist had handed to me 20 minutes ago. No, nothing had been done with the forms since they arrived in October. For over five months I sat at home like a lemon (again!) assuming someone was doing something with the information I had given them (again!) but instead the Thing That Needed Actioning (argh!) was sitting in a to-do pile in another dimension (again!)*. She left again for a while, and came back to offer me an appointment to fill the form out tomorrow morning with, awkwardly, the same GP who told me that her colleague would be doing the form five months ago.
(*) If this sounds depressingly familiar, it’s because it is. From January til June 2017 my housing application for impending homelessness sat in an unattended inbox until my friend (who is a housing support worker, but not for my council) badgered them into finding it and starting the process. So that makes a grand total of 11 and a half months of unnecessary delay out of the 15 months since I submitted my application to the council. Should I have sat around for both delays, waiting for them to get this far without chasing anyone up? Of course not! – and that’s where the paralysing anxiety comes in, and the depression that makes me too miserable to even think about housing, and the fatigue that prevents me from being in any way useful most of my waking hours. Basically, all the things that will go on that medical form tomorrow. It took until today for me to feel okay enough to ask about the letter; it’s nearing a miracle I still have the energy to write about it after.
THIS is why I need an advocate, a support worker, a someone who can do the chasing-up and checking-in. It’s not me trying to shirk responsibility for my own endeavours, but trying to ensure that I don’t fall between the cracks again. Because I have, due to the aforementioned assortment of brain kittens and body woes. When I do speak to people about it, their assumption is often that I’m trying to weasel out of doing my own work; I’m educated, well spoken, on paper I should have my shit together. In reality, I’m holding the cracks together with jam. However, I have a vague plan: tomorrow I see the GP to do the form and at the same time I will ask if she can refer me to somewhere. If I have no luck there, I see my therapist on Thursday. If no luck again, the CAB (so, somewhere around 2019 when I’ve built myself up to it….)
I’d just really love for every step in this torturous process not to come with its own obstacles. NOTHING about the housing process so far has been anything less than frustrating. At this point, “frustrating” would be a vast improvement.