Today’s post is an update on N, a homeless disabled woman with an abusive ex partner and 2 little kids. I’ve been writing about N’s situation for most of this year – key takeaway being that I’ll need to write a lot more if we’re measuring success by the speed with which N’s council has pulled finger to help her.
N and her family have been stuck living in a single room in a London homelessness hostel for 3 years – beds, living area and things, belongings, and N and her kids all crammed into one room. You can imagine how agreeable these living arrangements are. Even if you really like your kids, you would probably decline an offer to spend eternity caged in one room with them.
Compounding N’s undesirable setup, though, is her council’s odd taste for mental torture. N was placed in the hostel by her council 3 years ago, because she was homeless. They should have at least moved her to a temporary place with an extra room or 2 a few months after that, but she is still in the hostel.
That means it has been years now – day in and day out, living in that room, with nothing ever changing. To be fair, the council did break up the monotony late last year when they sent the then-pregnant N a letter to tell her they were going to chuck her onto the streets – ie evict her, etc. We can probably agree that that bit wasn’t boring. The council was going to evict N, because she had balked at accepting a temporary housing offer. She did that because the place the council showed her wasn’t secure enough to keep an aggressive and pissed-off ex-partner out. The council said they’d evict her for turning the place down. Long story short: after a torrent of pointed activist emails cc’d to the mayor, the council decided to park the eviction idea and leave N and her kids (including newborn) in the hostel for the time being.
Which brings us to the rest of 2022.
We haven’t heard much about eviction since February, possibly because the council seems to be pursuing a new strategy – namely, raising N’s hopes, then crushing them. She is told a place is available, then never hears about it again. She is told that she’ll be housed somewhere better soon, but isn’t. This has been going on for absolute months. Dogs are rehomed faster. I always knew that single mothers who’d been abused were a long way down the queue for sympathy, but I didn’t realise that they were actually last in the line, or even on a waiting list for it. I suppose it all comes down to the world still believing that even when they’re the ones who are taking the abuse, women still somehow ask for it and certainly ought to pay for it.
Which is not to say there haven’t been special moments this year. The council’s most recent effort was to call N and tell her that some rogue independent medical assessor had decided that N, who can’t walk without aids, could climb 2 flights of stairs to a 2nd floor flat if a 2nd floor flat became available. (By merry coincidence, this assessor turned out to be one of a number that have threatened me with legal action over the years. Small worlds, in more ways than one). This assessor had never met with N, so it was hard to know which research method they’d used to arrive at their spectacular conclusion – probably the one where you stand outside and stick a wet digit in the air. After another pointed email cc’d to the mayor, the council, who’d previously agreed that N couldn’t walk up stairs, agreed that N couldn’t walk up stairs and ditched the assessor’s report. No waste of time or money there.
N is, of course, still in the hostel. We spoke on Friday – a whatsapp meeting during which N cried and talked about giving up while another activist and I sat there listening to N’s mental health collapse in real time. The council really needs to house this woman asap, you know. I say this because I really do mean it. Time to get cracking, council. Let’s move.