Rebecca is 21 years old and lives alone with her daughter who is 16 months old. Rebecca left home aged 17 and has lived on her own and looked after herself since then. All of Rebecca’s family live locally although she receives no support from them. Her mother has recently remarried, has her own young children to look after and her own financial struggles.
‘I don’t speak to anyone else really. I’ve been used to this all my life so I just get on with it... I don’t rely on anybody or expect anything. That way I don’t get let down.’
Rebecca’s housing situation is unsatisfactory and unstable. She is in a temporary furnished flat for emergency homeless use and was told she would be there for three months. She has been there since July 2014 (eight months at the time of interview) and they told she would definitely have a house by Christmas. The temporary homeless accommodation is cold, draughty, and unpleasant and causes Rebecca a great deal of distress. She believes it is having a negative effect on her baby daughter’s health as she cannot afford to heat it. She has started taking antidepressants as a result of her dire circumstances.
In addition to problems with the emergency accommodation Rebecca also has difficulty knowing about, accessing and using services that are there to support her. She says she’s been told that if she doesn’t apply for specific houses by March then she will be allocated a house by the council that this can be anywhere in the city. When asked if she might manage to find something before March, Rebecca replied: ’if it’s private, yeah’. When asked why only in the private sector, Rebecca explained that she doesn’t know what council housing is available to her or how to look for it or apply for it. She believes that ‘there is nothing I can question, nothing I can do’ to facilitate getting a council house. She also explains that if offered a house, ‘you can’t say no. You only get one choice’. ‘If you say no, you’ve rejected a home over your head, so it’s your fault, and you now have to house yourself’. She believes that the March deadline is due to the fact that temporary furnished accommodation is only supposed to be used in the very short-term and she has now been there for many months.
Rebecca is reluctant to ask questions to the housing department because she feels they treat her as though she is stupid. She says she feels stupid for asking questions and so doesn’t ask any more. This is leading to confusion in the process of housing, entitlement, what type of service she might expect, and how to access it effectively. This is leading to her not having been housed already and a risk that she may be offered housing that is not entirely suitable for her needs. There is a risk that the housing department assumes that she has more knowledge about the processes and procedures than she actually does and her fear of looking stupid is preventing her from asking the necessary questions. ‘I asked some questions, but then, sometimes I feel stupid for asking questions so I just, kinda, figure it out myself. I tried to find a house and it didn’t work’.
As a result of her unsatisfactory housing situation Rebecca has had engagement with services she might otherwise not have needed to: she called the Police when she run out of gas and electricity in the middle of winter and was worried about her baby, she has asked her GP for antidepressants, she has had much contact with the housing department and has been receiving support from a voluntary agency.
Names have been changed to protect anonymity and photos of models are courtesy of © NHS Scotland 2011.