Homeless, suffering with mental illnesses, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and post-traumatic stress disorder, Andrew was placed into his current accommodation. It was supposed to be a temporary measure – somewhere to tide him over as he bid for a more permanent council home. That was in December 2015. Andrew is still there.
When Andrew first moved in, there was no sign of the problems to come – but they didn’t take long to emerge. ‘There was no mould at the time, it smelt of paint. Then, in the first month the mould started coming up, then it just carried on, it never stopped. [I’ve been] trying to scrub it, but nothing would actually get it off.’
Andrew’s flat is small. Two rooms over a split level, each around twelve feet square – with a shower and toilet in a tiny wet room. But now, with the mould and damp worsening, Andrew has been forced to abandon the upstairs. ‘It just overtook the room, and now I’m unable to live in it. All I can do with this room is store clothes in it, and even my clothes are starting to smell damp now. It’s hard to breathe in the mornings. Each time I have a shower I come back out and I feel dirty again.’
Living out of a single room would be difficult for anyone. But for Andrew, with his complexity of disorders and mental health illnesses, coping is particularly hard. ‘I have thoughts of hurting myself when things are not going right. I try pacing with my ADHD, but I can’t do that. I’m restricted on space. I’m restricted on room. It’s not good for it at all, it just sets me off.’
Despite approaching the council about his situation, despite sending letter after letter, despite being told by them his property is in an unliveable condition, Andrew is still living there.
‘It’s not nice to feel like there are walls up on every solution… It’s depressing. Really depressing. I’ve found myself crying over it. You find yourself kicking yourself, maybe it’s something you’ve done in this life.’
Frustrated, depressed and feeling he had nowhere else to turn, Andrew Googled his situation – typing ‘no-one helping me with properties’. Shelter came up.
‘I went on [Shelter’s] website and I just started writing what I felt and sent some photos and that was it. From there, the whole thing just blew right open. Shelter have made things a lot easier for me by communicating with the council.’
Since Andrew got in touch with us, we’ve been doing all we can to help him change his situation. We’ve spoken to the council, solicitors – and most importantly, made Andrew realise he doesn’t need to go through this alone. We’ve given him back belief, and together, we’re finding Andrew a way out.
‘If I met someone like me, I would tell them to contact Shelter… They’ll do everything in their power to help you. You have got a voice and it will be heard. I wouldn’t know what to do without them.’
Sadly, Andrew isn’t the only person feeling trapped in unsuitable, unsafe housing. The number of callers to our advice helpline is rising. Last year we received over 3,400 calls a week, but we’re finding it hard to meet the demand.