I’m a teacher, I’m a single mother, I have a sick son, and yet this is our only option

I’m a teacher, I’m a single mother, I have a sick son, and yet this is our only option

My name is Georgina, I’m 28 years old and I’m a secondary school maths teacher. I live with my three year old son in a one bedroom flat. 

Oliver is a very playful, inquisitive, boisterous toddler, who has a real zest for life.  He loves being outdoors. He has a real love of learning. He’s fantastic, he’s my little boy.

Oliver was diagnosed with a brain tumour 18 months ago. He has chemotherapy treatment every Monday.

I’m privately renting our flat. I’ve had to give up my job to care for Oliver.  This is the only flat I could find where the landlord would accept housing benefit. I’m finding it incredibly difficult living here.

In October 2017 I started noticing droppings everywhere. I told my landlord and pest control. They put traps and poison everywhere, all over the flat.  In the boiler cupboard I ended up catching an animal – at the time I thought it was a mouse, but when I showed it to pest control, they told me it was a rat, due to the length of the tail. 

Everything seemed ok for a while, but then at Christmas, the communal bins were getting really bad. All I had to do was open the communal bin area, which is situated to the left of Oliver’s bedroom, and there were rats everywhere.  The bins were in a dreadful state, holes in the bins, no lids. I’m desperately worried the rats will get back into our flat, as there are holes all around the outside of the building. 

Georgina's son Oliver

Nobody should have rats where they’re living. This is particularly essential for my son, who is immune-suppressed because he’s undergoing chemotherapy.  I’ve letters from a lot of medical professionals saying that this property is not suitable for Oliver, because of the high risk that it potentially poses. I’ve given these to the council and nothing has changed. It makes me very angry. 

It’s caused me to lose a lot of sleep.  I’m my son’s carer, and he is undergoing chemotherapy to treat a brain tumour. I shouldn’t have to worry that there might be a rat running across the floor. I’m a teacher, I’m a single mother, I have a sick son and yet this is our only option.  It’s not right.

I would love us to have a two-bedroom home, where I don’t have to sleep opposite a fridge.  I would love for Oliver to have just a little garden, where he can run out and play in the sandpit, or the mud kitchen, because on the days when he is immuno-suppressed, when he cannot go outside or go to the park, it makes those days very difficult. He’s a typical three year old who just wants to get out and explore the world.  It would mean so much to us.

Georgina playing with her son Oliver

I think MPs need to put themselves in my position.  The government needs to put more funding in for social housing. Families deserve a stable, long-term home where they can put down roots and make a fresh start for their children. We’re in the 21st century and this just shouldn’t be happening.

There are many people like Georgina living in unsuitable private rented accommodation but with no other option. They desperately need social housing, but there is not enough of it.

To help people like Georgina we have come up with a comprehensive vision for social housing, but we need your help to put pressure on politicians to act.

Have you had a bad housing experience? If so share your story with Shelter to raise awareness of the need for safe, secure and affordable homes.