At Christmases in the past I have volunteered to help people who were homeless, isolated and elderly. I did this for several years. This seemed such an important way to spend my spare time. Even last week I bought fish and chips for someone in a shop doorway.
Now, at 70, I find that it’s me facing life on the streets. Through a series of life events, I’m someone who has fallen through the cracks. Sometimes I sit down and cry.
I find myself having to make the choice between fuel and food; the bills I can pay now and the ones I can’t. I think about what I can cut down on and how much pressure the creditor is exerting. Every decision weakens me and removes the strength I need to drag myself back up. I’m struggling on the edge of a precipice.
Most important for me is to maintain my car, as this enables me to drive the 40 miles to see my daughter and two little grandchildren. It’s always been my principle not to ask my daughter for anything. She has a mortgage and a family. I won’t make myself dependent on her in any way.
I also have my frail 94 year old mum to think about.
Like many men I lost my home when my marriage went wrong. After this, a good friend sorted me out what seemed like permanent accommodation, a small terraced place he owned that I could rent at a low rate. Then my friend fell ill and his life was in danger. This put me in a precarious position and I moved into a house owned by my then partner. All I wanted was a sense of security and to exist with some dignity.
After I moved into her property the relationship turned sour. Now I’ve heard the housing benefit people told me they are stopping paying me. I am unable to see the legal papers they have based their decision on but they are acting in her favour and I feel every move is trying to dislodge me.
I have approached housing associations but property is a massive issue. No one is setting serious targets about affordable housing.
Rents are so high you feel everything seems unreachable.
I’ve found nowhere available for someone in my situation. I feel pushed to the side by every Government policy and institution.
Without housing benefit, it is impossible for me to pay rent. My landlady will then move to have me evicted immediately on the grounds of non-payment of rent all with the support of the law!
I have registered for assistance in applying for local housing and for a social services housing needs assessment. But, despite all the service I have contributed to my country, including serving in the army, I may be about to be made homeless. This will mean the loss of my dignity; the loss of all my personal belongings gained over a life time; life on the streets; huge stress; accelerated bad health; and probably the loss of regular contact with my family.
In the UK in the 21st century, this cannot be right.
Stephen, 70, East Midlands
Have you been affected by any of these issues?
This blog represents one individual’s experience; personal circumstances differ – if you have been affected by any the issues in this blog and want some advice about your own situation please contact Independent Age’s Helpline on 0800 319 6789.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of Independent Age