My son amazes me every day. He works so hard at school, he’s an A-star student. He never lets our home life get him down and it breaks my heart because there’s very little I can do to change things right now. This Christmas will be just like the last – cold, damp and difficult. I’ll make it as good as I can for us, but when you’re living in a cramped, temporary place, doing whatever you can to keep warm, with mould crawling up the walls, making us sick – Christmas won’t be anything close to how it should be.
I’m writing this so you can hear what it’s really like to be homeless, from the people going through it. Apparently, a household in England becomes homeless every four minutes. Over Christmas, many of them will be stuck living in temporary accommodation you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. I want to tell you my story in the hope you’ll offer your support.
I look back at photos of my Christmases as a kid, and it frustrates and upsets me so much that I can’t give this to my son. We’re stuck in limbo right now, and it can feel utterly hopeless at times. When I first got in touch with Shelter, I’d hit rock bottom. We’d just been moved by the council to another tiny, temporary place – I could never call it a home. There was no drinking water and I had to wash all the dishes and clothes in the shower. My son even had to share a bed with me – he was 11 by then. We were forced to live next door to drug dealers in an incredibly rough area. It was hell.
I just had to do something, for the sake of my son. That’s when I first spoke to Wafa at Shelter. She really stepped up for us, arranging a suitability check with the council who found our home to be ‘unsuitable’ – no surprise here. At last, after many moves and a nightmare few years, I felt supported. Thanks to donations from people like you, Shelter was able to fight my corner every day, when no one else would. They used their legal knowledge to help me lodge a formal complaint to the council and pursue them when it took months to move us to somewhere new. They really had my back. I honestly don’t know what I’d have done without them.
When the council moved us to our current place, I felt hopeful. This place felt a bit closer to the home we needed – we even had a bedroom each. But as winter fell, problems started to show up; with the cold and rain came freezing damp. Every exterior wall was affected, and rainwater would actually run down the walls inside – my son’s room became thick with mould. It was disgusting. Despite all Shelter’s hard work, it turns out the home the council said was ‘suitable’, was far, far from it.
I never ask for much. But isn’t it everyone’s basic human need to live in a home that doesn’t make you and your family sick? A place that’s warm and comfortable, where you can sleep soundly? We don’t even have a safe, secure front door in this place, would anyone be able to sleep knowing that?
The good thing is, I know Wafa and the Shelter team are still fighting for us. People like you mean that their amazing helpline staff, housing experts and lawyers can help people like me to navigate the paperwork, the tough conversations, the loopholes, even the depression that comes with living like this.
I’m determined that with Shelter’s help, we can get back to a good place one day soon. We may not be living on the streets, but we won’t be ‘home’ this Christmas. For now, I’ll ask once more for your support, to help Shelter be there for us and the thousands more who will be calling their helpline and asking for their advice at this time of year.
Please donate to Shelter to help a family like Sireena’s get back to a good place this Christmas. They are counting on your support.