I don’t go near the window because I might jump… How many people with serious mental health histories are in hostels like this?

This is an excerpt from a longer article I’m working on:

A fortnight ago, I visited Lukia – a woman with a history of severe depression. She has been in the care of a mental health unit.

For two years, Lukia has lived on an upper floor of a grim homelessness hostel in Newham. She was placed in the hostel by Newham council.

She dislikes living up so high, because she worries about jumping.

Lukia said:

“I’m living on the ninth floor, because… my daughter knows that I don’t go near the window… I always feel like I’m going to go down…”

I asked:

“Like you’re going to jump?”

“Yes, yes… feel like you’re jumping.” Lukia said.

Here’s the view from Lukia’s window:

Her hostel room is also distressing. It’s not really a room. It’s more a hallway with Lukia’s bed and belongings in it. There’s a small kitchen at one end of this hallway and the bed, and window, at the other.

The “room” is filled with suitcases, kitchen items and household belongings:

Why do we make people with serious mental health conditions live like this?

Lukia’s daughter lives in a similar hallway-type room next door, because her mother can’t live alone.

Lukia says the council has offered other temporary accommodation, but she worries about that. She was moved to this hostel from other temporary accommodation, because that accommodation was disgusting:

“They left me there in Romford Road – [that accommodation] was really filthy. We kept on cleaning. We couldn’t do anything. We would have to go through the environmental services… I said I’m not staying in the place. We were about five, six, seven families…. and said you cannot stay in this environment. They all had children. A woman wrote to them – the council – and said, “move these people as soon as possible.” Then, the following day they phoned us and said you have to move…”

What on earth are we doing?

I’d ask Newham Council for a comment on this – in particular, a comment on Lukia’s concerns about jumping and living in a room many stories up – but the council has blacklisted me. There we go.

41 thoughts on “I don’t go near the window because I might jump… How many people with serious mental health histories are in hostels like this?

  1. This country is fucked. In every respect. Every aspect of society is dysfunctional, and we all know who is to blame. At least I’ve got a roof over my head, so that’s something to be thankful for, but it’s a crummy flat in a bad area and I can’t move for fear of being transferred to Universal Credit. Trapped in my flat, as Vic & Bob once sang.

    • I wonder how many people now put up with really shitty circumstances because they don’t want to trigger a move to Universal Credit

      • Thousands probably. My wheelie bins were set on fire over the weekend and now the council is saying I have to pay for a replacement, and they’re refusing to even clean up the burnt out mess left behind stuck to the ground. Why do I pay Council Tax? It’s getting worse round here.

  2. Kate while I know I’m really lucky to work part time my old landlord sold the place I was living in which I paid some rent and had a top up from housing benefit. I’m so scared of universal credit I decided not to claim it. The only accommodation I can afford without a top up is a room in a shared house…and I’m 55!!

    • Yes that’s a real problem. So many things now are used as a trigger to close a claim and force a Universal Credit one – it’s a mess, very unfair and about a million miles from so called “managed migration.”

    • Kat, it’s interesting you should post your comment. A couple of weeks ago I was researching jobsearch requirements under UC and came across this article:

      https://medium.com/adviser/universal-credit-and-conditionality-c5f6f1a9306a

      The part that is particularly interesting is Regulation 99(6) Universal Credit Regulations 2013 (Reg 99(6) UC 2013) where the article states that under that regulation a ‘work search requirement cannot be imposed ‘ on a single person earning more than £338 a month, though other conditions can be – it’s called ‘Light Touch Regime’ which is a lot less onerous than the intensive 35 hours a week jobsearch crap that people earning less than this amount have to do. It amounts to around £78 a week – which could be relatively easily achievable, even on minimum wage, as it’s about ten hours, or a day an bit.

      I did query it with the writer, and he responded a few minutes ago, confirming that the above is the case.

      I mentioned this rule to a friend, (who is ironically on Light Touch Regime due to health issues) and she was quite put out as when she was working, earning more than £338 a month and claiming UC she was still expected to do work search – I’m guessing that the DWP aren’t telling their staff about this, and very few will bother to find out about these things of their own volition.

      Part of the power of UC is the fear that people have of it, and they are right to be frightened. But it’s things like this that diminish the ability for it to strike fear into people. So Kat, if you’re working, and earning more than £338 a month, (or £78 a week) then it could well be worth thinking about applying for UC – but get plenty of advice first, from people like the CAB, who even though they have become government stoolies to an extent, still try to provide an impartial service.

  3. The cat is out of the bag on Universal Credit, and now the DWP are desperately trying to force as many people onto it as possible, under a hailstorm of public criticism from just about everybody. The Church, the councils, housing departments, charities, you name it. If it wasn’t for Brexit we would be having a real public scandal about Universal Credit. When the Sun and White-Van man turn against Tory policy, look out.

    “You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately… Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!”
    Oliver Cromwell’s speech dismissing the Rump Parliament (20th April 1653)

    • I think you have a good point there Jeff. However there are still far too many who have distinctly nasty viewpoints about anyone claiming benefits – even if they claim things like child benefit, or similar themselves!

      I’ve never understood how otherwise intelligent people can buy into the obviously ludicrous rhetoric about benefit claimants; those stories about multi-generational families where no-one has ever worked, despite organisations such as the Joseph Rowntree Foundation not being able to find even one example, despite trying very hard. (If they’d tried a little harder they could perhaps have mentioned that family of royal parasites, but perhaps they thought that they’d just be be dismissed as being facetious). I had a bit of a disagreement with my sister-in-law as I’d challenged her when she spouted that absurdity, (heck, even a millisecond’s thought is enough to demolish it as credible) telling me that it must be true because one of her friends works for the CAB (or something) and has to deal with people like that. That’s the problem with the CAB, it sometimes allows the most awful morally judgemental people to volunteer for them. My sister-in-law is far from stupid, (is a project manager for DEFRA) and is in many ways a very caring person and critical of much of what goes on, but I do find it very galling when people just won’t challenge their own stupid assumptions, assume that something must be true because a friend told them – I always take everything everyone tells me with a pinch of salt, as everyone has a bias, and we all can get things wrong.

      But yes, I think you’re right about things being on the brink of change once the Sun and White Van Man are aroused – look at how the Sun got Tony Blair elected in 1997! (I think that’s perhaps be careful what we wish for territory).

      Let’s hope the tide is beginning to turn. I read an article online somewhere in the past couple of days where the thinking was that 40 years is a cycle and that neoliberalism has had it’s 40 years of ascendency, and has been seen to have failed everyone except the very few. All over the world things are changing, and a lot of that is somewhat worrying, but what is interesting is that even in the USA socialism is starting to make sense to people again.

      Fingers crossed.

    • Elsewhere, Benefit Sanctions are in the news:

      https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/02/11/benefit-sanctions-tories-cling-to-the-politics-of-the-concentration-camp/

      https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/tories-snub-pleas-rein-pointlessly-13979854

      https://intensiveactivity.wordpress.com/2019/02/11/government-rejects-benefit-sanctions-inquiry-report-call-to-change-inhuman-sanctions-regime/

      A local homeless man who was living under a bridge on the edge of my town centre told me that he had dropped out of the Benefits system after being Sanctioned for 2 years. His presence attracted a lot of attention and the local paper reported that he had refused offers of accommodation, but didn’t say why. If he’s not in receipt of any Benefits and has no income then he can’t pay rent, Council Tax or utility bills!

    • A shocking number of people become homeless because of mental ill health. Since a close friend of mine developed a serious mental health condition a few years ago, I’ve discovered how hostile people can be, and how ignorant too. I’ve also been staggered at the total lack of understanding and lack of contingencies by housing associations and other bodies when it comes to people with mental health. Very often some agencies will dismiss mental health issues as ‘anti-social behaviour’ (as they did in the case of my friend, who I explained to them, was mentally ill, and not being deliberately anti-social – the ‘Community Solutions Team’ a bunch of part-timers who clearly didn’t have a clue, dismissed my comments as I wasn’t a health care professional, but neglected to contact the relevant agencies that could have helped my friend. In the end, I needed to contact a local politician, as it had dragged on for a month with my friend deteriorating and increasingly the housing association wanting to take action for anti-social behaviour. It’s amazing the reaction when a politician gets involved – things happened quickly and my friend got all the support she needed.) or they forget to pay their rent, and this goes on for quite some time with everyone seemingly sitting on their hands. I can’t blame the various agencies all the time, as they may not be aware, but the attitudes of the general population aren’t often that positive and there are as many nasty myths about people with mental health issues as there are those about benefit claimants. All of them down to ignorance, stupidity and a lack of education.

      It’s calculated that one in four people will suffer some form of mental ill health at some point in their life, and yet very few social landlords have any policies or contingencies, (apart from anti-social behaviour orders, and eviction) towards keeping mentally ill people in their homes and ensuring they get the support they need when they need it.

      It’s hardly surprising that homeless people suffer from mental health issues, as I would imagine that being homeless would contribute to mental ill health, but I do genuinely believe that many people become homeless partly because of mental ill health.

      Another startling statistic is the level of mental ill health amongst those in prison, (37% of the average monthly prison population suffers from mental ill health according to this paper: https://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Mental-health-in-prisons.pdf) who often also become homeless when released. With some it’s a revolving door, and when I was working with homeless people I met quite a few who, particularly in the winter months, would try to get themselves convicted to a custodial sentence as it meant a roof over their heads, warmth and three meals a day and probably represented more freedom than they had as homeless people.

      • I once received a home visit by a ‘crisis’ team when with a HA after I had told them I couldn’t afford to pay the Bedroom Tax. They looked around my flat, and in the kitchen cupboards, and did an inspection, then concluded that I didn’t need any help simply because my flat was very clean & tidy and I had food in the cupboards. They were used to visiting people who lived in filthy conditions with no food and no furniture apart from a mattress on the floor surrounded by cider bottles & tin foil. They didn’t get my point that because I had spent my JSA on stocking up on food meant that I had no money left for utility bills or bedroom tax, and they just said if you don’t pay it we’ll evict you! Despite having been a trouble -free tenant for many years with no arrears, and diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. Got no help whatsoever.

        • Yes, why is it that the bottom line always seems to be money? Sure, rent is important, but I came across an interesting stat earlier today about rent – nowadays the average that poorer people now pay an average of 52% of their income for housing costs as opposed to 7% back in 1981 – that’s a staggering increase, and shows how distorted things have become.

          I think that diagnoses of Borderline Personality Disorder ought to be banned, as it is such a catch all and almost an ideal label to place on anyone who has the temerity to challenge ‘authority’ or in any way behave in a way that could arbitrarily labelled awkward – even if your demeanour is good and you are asking reasonable questions that they just happen to dislike.

          • Well with respect Padi there is or was a bit more to it than that. Yes, on one hand my general attitude was deemed to be a part of it, the Doctor certainly didn’t like my Political views and anti -Establishment stance, but the symptoms also include such things as a propensity for having suicidal thoughts, suffering from Depression, Anxiety, Disassociative Panic Attacks (very weird & unpleasant), as well as harboring strange thoughts/beliefs and seeing or imagining things, though I still maintain that many of the things I experienced were valid and real such as seeing UFOs or having OOBEs, experiencing Astral Travel, past-life recall, psychic premonitions and clairvoyant visions etc. all of which I have experienced. It also affects other areas of life such as forming & maintaining lasting friendships and relationships, or holding down a job, social awkwardness, feeling alienated and isolated. It’s not an easy condition to live with, and is made worse by the fact that mental /psychological problems are often invisible and no one suspects that you have a genuine problem that is partly genetic and partly caused by social factors in childhood or early infancy, resulting in certain parts of the brain being physically underdeveloped. It has nothing to do with intelligence /intellect but affects emotions.

          • I wasn’t meaning to suggest that you weren’t suffering from something, more that it’s the lazy label that’s slapped on it as a get out clause by mental health professionals so that they don’t have to deal with it.

            Most of the mental health professionals I’ve met, and I mean psychiatrists etc, are some of the most arrogant and up themselves people I have met – one in particular as he let it be known that he thought all Welsh people were inbred half-wits, which is a great attitude when you live and work in rural West Wales! I’ve generally found that CPNs are pretty good, if overworked and hugely under-resourced.

            I know that people generally get really worked up about people with mental health issues living in the community, but I guess I’m old school Welsh where the community is where ‘special’ people should be, unless they are a serious threat to themselves or others.

            In one of the localities where I grew up the husband of my Sunday school teacher used to occasionally chat to who he called ‘spacemen’ (meaning ‘aliens’ I guess, unless it was American pilots flying hush hush aircraft – it was the time of the Cold War and in an area that was used one of the biggest missile test ranges in Europe) who had arrived in a UFO. I just accepted it at face value, not that I have any interest whatsoever in UFOs, maybe they exist, I don’t know, and I refuse to be drawn on the subject one way or another.

            The me of 40 years ago would have been green with envy over your OOBEs, as I was then very interested in that kind of phenomena, and I read a lot around the subject of parapsychology. It could be said that I was a bit obsessed even.

            I’ve never really understood the whole friendship thing, and always thought I was the odd one in that I’ve never really had many friends, but I do have a few very good friends. But having said that, I am usually very happy with my own company, and most of my friends seem to be a similar personality.

    • It’s still a bit of a back-handed reluctant sort of admission, they’re saying that food poverty ‘was’ caused by UC (delays) but isn’t now. This is despite also that reports elsewhere say that the DWP have now stopped Jobcentres from referring people to foodbanks. The loans that are available to help people through the 5 weeks wait aren’t enough, and in any case are repayable, thereby leading to further poverty.

      • Absolutely Trev, but the very fact that Rudd has admitted there is a link after such a ling period of DWP denial is perhaps beginning to show there are cracks. And perhaps this announcement by Rudd and the news that the Jobcentre are no longer referring people to foodbanks is related? It’s thought that the logic behind this move is to remove any hint of a suggestion that there is a causal link between UC and further use of foodbanks. Plausible deniability of course, which might fool Daily Mail readers, but no-one else. I think something further could be done about the crazy five week wait as that is just an arbitrary period and bears no relationship with the time it takes to process a new claim. There is clearly something seriously amiss if a system that is ‘digital by default’ then has delays built into it for no reason – unless of course, as is widely suspected, the digital by default only extends as far as the application process, and the processing is largely done manually. And agreed, those loans are a despicable solution for people who are so desperately in need – they should be grants, as they will never represent huge sums of money.

        • Exactly yes. There’s no good reason why a digital system should take 5 weeks, imagine if it took 5 weeks for a person’s salary to go into the Bank, or if PayPal/ebay transactions took that long to process!

          • It’s like cheques – it used to be a standard 3 days for a cheque to clear, and that dated from the early days of banking in the 17th century when the cheques had to be physically carried between the various banks and the clearing houses. Now, with my bank it takes ten days for a cheque to clear, and that’s with it all being electronic. Of course, it doesn’t really take that long, it’s just that the bank likes to have the opportunity to make a little interest on our money. Nowadays when I need to send someone money I usually ask them if they can accept a bank transfer, as it’s easier and appears in their account almost instantly, and certainly within a couple of hours.

            I think we know why it takes five weeks for a first payment to come through on UC – it’s because they want people to suffer and to not make a claim. Bastards!

  4. Hopefully now that Ms.Rudd has admitted the link between foodbanks and Universal Credit we will see some changes to the system. As ever with the DWP, what they will actually do about it remains to be seen. They never did implement the ‘yellow card’ warning system for potential sanctions. Still this admission is an encouraging sign, and one that IDS and McVey would never have made.

  5. Yes, I’m off computer technology a bit today – earlier on one of my 3TB drives decided to give up the ghost with no warning – it had a lot on it too. I was planning to back it all up on Blu-ray discs, but too late now 🙁

  6. Am just watching ‘Skint Britain’ on Channel 4 (started at 9.00pm), showing life on Universal Credit in Hartlepool, God it’s depressing, heart breaking, like Ken Loach & Mike Leigh mixed with Bleasdale and all rolled into one, except this is real life. We’ve got to get those evil Tory bastards out. We really should eat the rich

    • Wow, Hartlepool again! That video I linked to on the BBC iPlayer site was about Hartlepool except it was in 1963 at about the time the shipbuilding industry there collapsed.

      • It’s gone downhill ever since by the looks of things. The Tories have taken us backwards, there are people in this country that are no better off than their Victorian counterparts. In fact having to let your dog loose on the common in the hope of catching a rabbit because you have no money for food is positively Medieval. They needn’t bother making all those tv shows about going ‘back in time’ to experience the lives of previous generations, it’s still happening. It’s a disgrace and the Tories should hang their heads in shame (or be hanged).

    • Just watched ‘Skint Britain’. It’s a ‘must watch’ if ever there was one. It shows just how bad Universal Credit is. The more I think about it the more it seems to me that the whole system is insane.

      I’d happily eat the rich, but I suspect they’d not be deemed as fit for human consumption by the slaughterhouse vets 🙂 (and they’d probably be tough and sinewy too.)

      • Yeah I didn’t actually mean “it’s bad” as in a badly made programme (like all that Channel 5 shite), I just meant the subject matter and the situation there in Hartlepool, which is about as bad as it gets, very harrowing to watch. The level of hardship & suffering inflicted on the most vulnerable of people, interspersed with clips of IDS saying “you will work your way out of poverty”, is just stunning.

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