Nina, 44, moved to the UK from the Netherlands with her British husband more than 10 years ago. She has back problems, and is registered disabled. When the family first moved to the UK, her children were little, so coupled with her disability it made sense for her to stay at home while her husband worked. Five years ago her husband left her and the children, and she has heard nothing from him since.
Unable to afford the rent on the family home, she went to the council for help.
“They told me that because I hadn’t been working, that I wasn’t eligible for any help. Everything was in my husband’s name – I had nothing.”
With a severe social housing shortage, the council had nothing to offer Nina. She had no savings, and no way of earning any money to save up a deposit and pay for a private rented flat, even with the help of housing benefit.
“I have teenage children – a boy and a girl. I don’t really think it is ok for them to share a room if at all possible, but renting three bedrooms costs too much. I wish I could go out and work to provide for my children, but I can’t.”
Nina and her children went to stay with her sister. It took a long time for Nina to sort out her paper work, but, after a couple of months, the council contacted her to say that there was a flat available.
“At first I was delighted, but I found out it was over an hour on the bus for the children to get to school and on the top floor of the building – with no lift. With my back, climbing stairs is very difficult. I didn’t know what to do. On my way back from looking at the flat I saw a sign for the Centre.”
Nina was met by our Gateway Team, who explained that although we don’t have houses to give out, we might be able to help her, and made her an appointment to meet Jemila in our Housing Advice Team.
“As soon as I met her I felt so much happier. She gives hope to people. Everything in the paperwork that wasn’t clear – she explained to me. She knows everything!”
Jemila advised Nina to take the flat, even though it was impractical. Our Housing Team are now building a case for Nina to be moved to a flat without stairs and closer to the children’s School. “We see so many people who have refused accommodation, but then we struggle to help them. Usually the only way to find accommodation after you have been declared intentionally homeless is to move into the private rented sector, but expensive deposits, rising rents and short term tenancies can put vulnerable families at risk of homelessness,” says Jemila.
The housing team relies entirely on donations from our supporters to help families like Nina’s. Please support the Cardinal Hume Centre.
To protect her identity Nina’s name has been changed and a stock image used.