As Satyulemas approaches…

…I start looking back at what has happened to me in a personal sense over the year. 

This year has been one of the most stressful in my life. We started the year losing several of my favourite celebrities. Losing people familiar to me (even in a distant fashion) upsets and unbalances me.
Then we had our Landlords of 13 years decide that they want the house back and give us an eviction notice. Losing familiar places does the same thing as losing familiar people, only ten times worse.

I finally came to terms with the fact that I am as Autistic as my children and partner.  And I am embracing that. No more excusing what I do because Allistic or Neurotypical people think it is weird.

I was trying to figure out what my stim is the other day. Most autistics have them and they provide comfort when we are anxious or stressed as well as signify our joy and happiness. My happy stim is jumping and clapping – that hasn’t changed since I was little, but I couldn’t seem to find my comfort stim…
Then I realised today that I am always doing something with my hands. If I have something with a game or a keyboard on it, I’ll be playing or writing. If I’m too anxious or angry to do that, I knit or craft. If I don’t want to do that, I bake or wash up or draw,

In fact, if I need comfort and have a pen / paper in my hands, I’ll doodle. If I don’t, I tap or fiddle with whatever I can pick up. Most of the time it’s subconscious, but it’s infinitely preferable to getting so upset and anxious that I meltdown.

Now, here we are in a new house with new people to get used to and I’m anxious again… there are too many people in the area, not enough clear space around me and way too much light and noise. But it is something I have to put up with, so I’ll probably be doing a lot of writing, drawing and knitting….

Satyulemas begins on 17th December (handily the weekend after the kids break up) so we’ll put up the decorations, play loud music, have good things to eat and watch some seasonal movies (assuming I can find them in the boxes) before the preparations really get started…

 

Homeless Thoughts

Homeless

Who loves a nobody?
Why does no one care?
Where will I sleep tonight?
How will I get there?

When will I find a home?
Who can tell me soon?
Huddled in a cardboard box,
In the evening gloom.

Food from a stranger,
In a moving van,
Wander in the daylight,
Sleep upon the strand.

Someone please help me,
For I really need a home,
Time waits for no man,
Again I’ll sleep alone.

* * *

First Published in:
‘LETTERS FROM THE SOUL’ ANTHOLOGY
ISBN: 0-7951-5160-8

That poem was written when I was a teenager, inspired by several news reports about Homeless people in the cities like London, Birmingham, Manchester and Edinburgh… but mostly London if I’m honest.

I was innocent back then. I didn’t think that families COULD be made homeless. I thought that if a family was thrown out of their home, that the local council would sweep them up and drop them into a council house.
I had some justification for that view – it had just happened to me at the time; the USAF base I lived on was closing and one minute I was living in isolation in a tumbledown cottage on an airbase, the next I was in a brand new council house in the middle of a village with a shop and a school and people!

Back then – please remember that this was over twenty years ago… Yikes that makes me feel old! – there was a lot of nastiness in teenage society about how your parents got their money and where you lived. Living in a Council House was okay as long as you had both your parents and one of them was working (preferably your father) so while I was low on the scale, for a long while I wasn’t the lowest of the low.
When my parents divorced, I dropped down the scale somewhat. My Mum was still working, which kept me off the absolute bottom, and being sixteen and on my way to university by then, it didn’t matter as much to me.

As I kept getting told (by various “helpful” adults) I was working my way out of poverty, and one day I would have a highly paid job, a house and car of my own and be able to look after my own family in much better circumstances, maybe even living in London or New York .

I would never have to depend on benefits or the council ever again.

Being an impressionable sort of teenager (wonderful thing, Aspergers, huh) I believed what I was told and did my utmost to fulfil the fantasy they were spinning for me… but life being what it is, it wasn’t until I got halfway through university that I realised I was on the wrong degree course… and that it was too late to stop the course and start again.

But by this time I had changed and I knew that the life fantasy I had been fed was completely wrong. So I spent several years working out what I wanted from life and started working toward that. At the back of my mind however, was “I don’t want to depend on benefits or the council ever.”

It took me a long time to overcome that thought.

So here I sit… an author and mother of three gorgeous children, engaged to a lovely, gentle man with two fluffy master cats to entertain and soothe our souls. And yet again I am facing homelessness.

Only this time, I realise what my parents must have gone through when they were told that the base was closing and that my Father’s job was going to come to an end. That they would have to move our family to another house and he would have to find another job somehow. That they would have to go into a Council house because their credit score wasn’t worthy enough to buy a house of their own.

And now I realise quite how toxic that original thought of “I don’t want to depend on benefits or the council ever.” is. There are situations where you have to depend on the goodwill of other people in order to change your situation, like Homelessness. This is where the Council is supposed to step in.

Because neither of us is working (rather hard to be a full time Teacher when you can’t get to a school to teach) and because my partner’s back problem has become chronic enough to disable him, we are depending on benefits. Because our credit score is neither good enough to get a mortgage, nor secure us another private rental house.

Because the Insurance Companies believe that people on Housing Benefit are shiftless, unreliable and highly likely not to pay the rent – and insist that Landlords must pay another 40% on top of their premium to be able to rent to such people.

Because Private Letting Agents require Landlords to pay to have their houses managed and Tenants to pay for the privilege of even trying to find out if they are “worthy” enough to rent a house with them… and then make Tenants pay through the nose for paperwork, spare keys, visits to view the property, to maintain the property, to renew the rental contract, to pay for the damage that pets “might” do to the property.

Because those on Benefits are viewed as high risk tenants, no matter their previous working histories, current circumstances or actual personalities.

This is where Council Housing is supposed to stand. A place that anyone, no matter what their finances or situations or disabilities can find a house to live in for as long as they need it.

But…

The housing (in our area anyway) isn’t there. There isn’t enough of it, of a livable quality, capable of coping with all the needs of all the people. There are over 400 people on the Accessibility List that we’ve been put on – medical priority, top of the list, but needing special adaptations to be able to live.

So here WE stand. Waiting for a court order eviction to throw us out of the house we are in; waiting for a three bedroom bungalow or ground floor flat ( no stairs allowed essentially); Waiting for the nod to move into Emergency Housing that might not be suitable for all our needs (remember I have three aspies to cope with as well?) for an unspecified amount of time.

The stress is more than that of a normal move (done that a few times before) because it’s the uncertainty of knowing where we will be going, how much we are going to be able to take with us and if our Cats (who provide a much needed service in the form of bringing sanity and calm to a meltdown) are going to be able to come with us or if we are going to have to put them into a Cattery.

One of the ways I deal with stress is to write… and this morning I came up with this –

Homeless
Part Two.

Losing your home,
Is like losing a friend.
Is like being uprooted,
Again and again.

You sit and you worry,
About where you will go.
About how you will get there,
In a place you don’t know.

The more there are of you,
The more your mind flits,
From possessions to people.
All needing “their” bits.

Made homeless by paper,
Made homeless by greed,
Made homeless by people,
Who don’t see your need.

You’d be right in thinking it isn’t finished… there is no satisfactory ending to his one because, as yet, there is no satisfactory ending to our situation.

The thought that there are hundreds of people in the same situation as us, who need similar things and can’t get them because there IS NO HOUSING suitable for them… that is something that makes me hate the society we live in even more.

Homelessness is no joke.

Warning – this is a long one and is probably going to sound a lot like a Self Pity Party. If you are allergic to such things, don’t read on.

I’m sure you’ve all heard of or read the stories in the papers. If you put “Homeless Mother Headlines” into Google,  you will get a whole slew of articles pop up at you… usually about how a Mother who hit the headlines in some way is now homeless or how a Mother will do something extraordinary in order to avoid her children being homeless.

The usual reaction is of pity and if the person reading it has the money and the Mother has a crowdfunding site then said mother may get a donation.
I’ve sat and listened to / read discussions (online and off) about such stories. They start out with pity and eventually morph into blame. From “How could someone do something like that to a family?” to “What has that woman done about it? Why hasn’t she moved or taken the landlord to court or done something?”
People would joke about them, as if they were something that had been made up for them to laugh about.

They never consider that it could happen to them.

At one point I was one of them.  I never went as far as blaming the women in the stories because having grown up on the Breadline, I knew how fast life could change, but I honestly never thought I would ever be homeless.

I’ve been saving up to move for a long while because we’d come to the conclusion that our children, two of whom have Aspergers / High Functioning Autism, needed to have a room each (there’s a very real need for a cave / safe space  to call your own when you’re Autistic) and we needed to have enough money saved to be able to pay for a private rental – Agency fees, Deposit, Pet Deposit and at least two months rent – plus a van and boxes etc.

I started a Gofundme campaign because my overseas friends wanted to help us. I never expected to get much. It was just a way to have friends help. The money from my Book Sales has been going into the account that the campaign pays into as well – every little helps, as Tesco always says!

But that was a couple of years back and because of various household emergencies we had to use some of that money. Still, we had a roof over our head and moving wasn’t urgent.

However… fast forward to this year…

We knew something would happen when the mental health charity helping us sent the Environmental Health Officer in to inspect the fungus and damp we had found. We had had inklings for a long while that our Landlord wasn’t as good as we thought they were, but we put up with it because we had nowhere else to go yet.

So it wasn’t much of a surprise when we were served with a Section 21: Notice to quit at the end of July.  Their reason was that they want to sell the house.  That’s fair,  it’s their property and the S21 gives you two months to find a new place to live.

Yes, you read it right. The Landlord gave us our notice right at the beginning of the summer holidays for the kids. And they spent every weekend of those holidays, fixing up the house to sell.

So with the charity’s guidance and help, we did what we were supposed to do. We got ourselves on the local Social Housing List and started looking for a new home. For every private rental we went to see, we got more stressed. Social Housing in our area is a wash out – there isn’t a lot of it because most of it was sold off during the “Right to buy” frenzy – but we kept an eye on that as well.

The whole time, we kept our children’s home life stable. We packed up minimally because for every box we taped up, we had an equivalent storage problem. We also had to deal with increasingly uneasy children who could see their lives being packed up around them.

Every weekend, we had the landlord here working on the house and asking us- “when are you moving?” , “Have you found a house yet?”, “how can we help speed up the process?” and other helpful questions.

My mental state has been deteriorating. I’ve gone back onto Antidepressants and I’m having regular anxiety and panic attacks. But I’ve still kept it more or less together in front of my children and coped with my fiance’s worsening health (the back pain is getting worse and nothing is helping) as well as trying my best to promote my work, write new stories to publish and get as much money coming into the house as possible.

Various friends have suggested that I go to the press, that I out the Landlords for being less than adequate at managing their property. I can’t do that to them.

Correction.

I can’t do that to their children. If they were childless, then I possibly would, but their sons don’t deserve to have that kind of nastiness happen to them. They are innocent.

Just like mine are.

About two weeks ago the Landlord offered an extension to the contract. It would have put the rent up, but we adults would have gone without food to be able to pay it… but on advice from a housing charity,  we pointed out that we didn’t think the property was worth that much and suggested a lower amount, hoping that they would negotiate and we’d end up on the same amount that we have been paying.
Nope.
They insisted that the amount they had said was fair and that if we wouldn’t take that first time, they would withdraw the offer.
The charity caseworker  felt that our situation would mean that we could  get a discretionary grant from the council to pay for the raised rent.

However… I now have the form to apply for the grant.
But the Landlord is still asking “for confirmation when we will be handing over the keys.”… actually the latest email said something more like “Please give us a time when you will be handing over the keys on the 30th Sept and vacating the property.”

So… we are seven days from being Officially Homeless.

And I am very close to the end of my mental strength.

I didn’t want to do this.

I’ve only ever posted the campaign on my Facebook pages – usually with the comment that “if you can’t help financially, then please share the link in the hope that someone else will be able to.”

Or “if you want to help, but feel you need to get something out of it in return, that you could buy my books and the money will go into the fund”, the way it has been for the last few years.

I have pared my outgoings down to the essentials only. I have stopped giving my children pocket money and paying for outings (other than school ones) or sweets and toys. I have cancelled my own charity payments (not that it was a lot) and all of that money has been going into the account I am using for the moving fund.

To be able to get a Private Rent, no questions asked, I need the money to be able to move and a Guarantor. So far, amongst my immediate family I have not been able to find a Guarantor.  No one has been willing or able to take that risk, even for me.

I have seven days to find a home for my children. I am now desperate.

So this is the link to the Moving Fund:

https://www.gofundme.com/edkgfk

Please help us. However you can do it, please help. It doesn’t have to be much, it all builds up.

This is the link to my Amazon Author Page:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B004UKPFQA

If you can’t help us directly, please buy a book; I link to Amazon because the money gets to me the fastest, but remember that my books are also available on iBooks and Nook and Smashwords – just search for Kira Morgana or A.E. Churchyard

If you can’t do either of those, share either link around through your social networks – maybe someone out there will be able to.

Please.