I was recently approached by Thorntons and their Christmas Hero's campaign to see if I knew of anyone who deserved a big 'ol gift of chocolate.
Well actually I could think of lots of people who fitted that bill there was one person who's story I felt needed highlighting. My friend Rachel and her family have recently been housed after being homeless for almost a year. She tells her story better of course on her own blog but to summarise Rachel and her family found themselves facing eviction and unable to raise the money for deposit on a new place, just before Christmas last year.
The council could not/would not help them until their eviction date so on this date they found themselves at the homeless office with a couple of suitcases between them and the rest of their belongings in a garage. They found their options were limited with spaces in family hostels in demand and were told they would probably find themselves at a B&\B. The council run B&B's are used for emergency accommodation and house using and recovering addicts as well as convicts on parole. I cannot imagine how Rachel felt as she realised this would now be home to her small son.
Rachel was too embarrassed at first to mention what was going on but in May this year she wrote a blog post about her situation (which is when I first heard about what an awful time they were going through). She said she had kept quiet for so long as she was ashamed and wondered if it was her fault that they were going through this. Their application for housing had just been refused and they had been living in a hotel for over five months (much longer than the six weeks maximum families are meant to be housed in these hostels/B&B's.)
I should add that Rachel also has Chiari Malformation, Hydrocephalus and a full Cyrinx in the spine and so is unable to work, you can read more about her disability here. In May she was told that they would need be out of their B&B accommodation within a month. They were told that if the council should decide they no longer have a duty to help them then social services would help. After speaking with them she was informed that in the worst case scenario if they could not find housing within the month then their son would be taken into care. I have to admit to crying when I read that paragraph on her blog, I simply cannot imagine going through something like this.
Rachel could barely walk at the time and finally after her initial application five months ago this was recognised and she was awarded the DLA higher rate disability allowance. She also got in touch with Shelter, who requested a review of their situation. Their health visitor also wrote a letter to the council to appeal their eviction and they were able to stay on a little longer. You can read this post here.
At the end of June they had the good news they had hoped for (quite by surprise) and found that their homelessness struggle would soon be coming to an end!
They were finally housed in August so nine months after they first found themselves without a home. Although the chocolates are a lovely gesture I really wanted to highlight Rachel's story and the stories of countless others that will be going through this right now. Shelter have recently announced that 80,000 children will be homeless this Christmas which is a heartbreaking statistic.
Thanks to Rachel for sharing her story and Thorntons for gifting her with some yummy chocolates to enjoy in their new home, and the opportunity to share Rachel's story.
*i am participating in the thorntons christmas hero competition to win a hamper of chocolate, but am very grateful to have been able to gift Rachel with some yummy chocolates too*