Friday, 27 February 2009


Perhaps you've heard that the council caps housing benefits. There is a cut off point up to which they'll pay after which, if your rent is higher, you pay the difference. I've tended to think this is beyond shite what with the astronomical rents landlords charge, particularly for all the people on a low income or benefits.

At the hairdresser's yesterday a woman was having her hair cut who worked for the housing benefits office. and we got talking about benefits. She told me there are different rates for studios, one beds etc and different cut off points for individuals, families, single parents. She also said though that if the rent is lower than the cut off point, then the goverment gives a free £15 handout. Ooh was my initial reaction.

My phone isn't working because my service provider still hasn't come to fix it so I can't call the office to find out what the rate is for a two bed. But for argument's sake I'll take a low rental figure like £200 a week (as if) because that's what she gave me in her explanation.

This woman said if that rent is lower than the cut off point then £15 of that is disregarded. That leaves £175 for the tenant to pay. Because, she said, the goverment believes that £90 a week is enough for a lone parent to live on, money owed for rent and council tax is taken from that waged figure to make up the difference.

She claimed the £15 freebie was advantageous to landlords who can use it to raise their rents to just below the allocation, keeping all rents, effectively, high. (my one bed is £225 a week so the rent I've posted for a two bed really is incredibly fictitious)

I'm having trouble understanding this. If I were a journalist I would make it my job to understand it better. However I am a stigmum. If I do make it my business to understand, when my phone is fixed and I've gleaned rents from I'll see if I can write a little something for the local rag. Otherwise I hope the Big Issue takes it up, they're good at stuff like this.

The upshot for me though, is that the government thinks £90 a week is enough to live on for basic necessities such as electricity, water, gas, council tax.... Have they tried living on it? I really am better off on benefits where I don't have to pay council tax (or rent, of course). In a council flat, my rent would be about £100 a week for a two bed. You may begin to understand why people want one, need one, why I do.

The cuttings you get at a hairdresser's, honestly. The woman asked me not to reveal who she was so I said "I won't ask your name."

Street Wardens

As we walked back from the hairdresser's last night where my boy had his barnet snipped, there were police up walking around on the second floor. As I walked into the building, they walked out and being the curious kind of girl I am, I asked them why they'd come.

The two policemen walked away but the street wardens stayed and told me they couldn't say.
"Did you come about the knife incident on the 10 year old girl last week?" I asked.
"We've heard nothing about that," they answered.
"Someone put a knife to a girl's throat in that playground there. She gave a statement but because her little friend couldn't, the police said they can't do anything."
"Right, well we can look into it for you."
"Yes, please do. I'll talk to the mum, see if she'll talk to you, but quite honestly, what needed to happen for it not to be ignored?"

They offered to walk us up to our flat (as both lifts were out) and although I didn't feel a need they insisted. I'm quite glad we passed no-one on the way up but they now know where I live and said they'd post a leaflet through my door today with their details.

I saw Peggy this morning who said they promised to do that weeks ago around all the flats. I sometimes think I've got NAIVE stamped on my forehead. I really do know better, or at least I really ought to. We'll see.


I haven't been for ages. This morning I didn't want to go. I really didn't want to go. I felt hungover; my head so foggy, my body so heavy but I didn't drown my troubles last night.

My workout started by carrying the bike down the stairs as the lift's not working again. Off we zoomed to school - "Thanks for the lift mummy!"

I then stopped at the heath for a double expresso and a roll-up. Not ideal but ideal. I got to class.


I'll go again next week. It's only £2. I really ought to go back to Bazza's Boot Camp aka Self Defence. It's very Zen.


It used to be free under Surestart but it's not anymore. Still, if I can cobble my cash on cancer sticks, I can beat myself up in a good way too.

"The time has come to make a stand with all the power in your hand
You are strong and you will see a victory
Never fear you're the best, standing here for the rest
Never fear you're the best of the best of the best!"

Oh I do Power Rangers song, so many of us do....

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Knock knock

Council man came over. I'm tired and have a headache as a result of it so I'll be brief. He said when my lease expires I may end up in a hostel and would I accept the private rental scheme. No no no I said again and will tell you why next week. I would now, but it bores me rigid and I have said headache.

He suggested he'd tell someone to come over to help me tidy up! Initially it sounded fantastic. Of course it transpired that said person will just chuck out my stuff, wily nily and well, I don't want to get rid of my son's home made cardboard computers or his cereal packet robot and I don't want anyone else to either. I will recycle my newspapers soon.

He said my flat was a 'health and safety issue' my son 'could trip' (On what?! A piece of paper?) then asked if I had a social worker. When I said no, he asked if I was coping and suddenly I got afraid of child theft by social services and said 'absolutely fine thank you' which won't help my case for housing because it helps not to be coping at all.

Then, total numnut that I am, he asked if I was on anti depressants and I told him no. What a fool! They might take away my medical points given to me when I was. I told him I did have a cupboard full of the ones I stockpiled though should I decide to go to sleep one night when my son's at his dad's.

(I like to have a choice following my suicide contemplation a couple of years ago as I stood staring out the window that barely opens wondering how I should do it... Then a powercut, a voice in the dark, 'mummy?' I hadn't realised he was there. The experience frightened me, so much so that after I ran my son a candle lit bath, I ran myself one and added a few drops of lavender oil just to be nice to myself. Stockpiling my drugs gives me a choice. Choose life heh heh)

I can see myself coming back to my conversation with him over the next few days or weeks. When I do though, I'll bring in the people I met when I did my dissertation. I focussed on families in hostel accommodation. "Home sweet home?" I asked them all. A straightforward question doesn't always get a straightforward answer.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

What Rob said, aged 4

You don't have to be friends, you just have to be friendly.

Playground bullies

They pick a child, they single them out, call them names, accuse them of false wrong doing, and exclude them. That's just the parents. Or rather one parent. I call her Ugly Mother because that's what she is. Ugly.

She told me I was negative, always talking about myself wailing "I've got problems too you know!" She's kept by her ex, not the State. She lives on a Crown, not a Council estate. She wishes there were more middle class parents in the school. God help it if they are anything like her.

She's repeatedly called my son a liar ever since I told her he'd sorted out problems with his friends - who happen to be her son and Media dad's. I thought the parents were mine, school gate speaking. Our boys were five years old at the time.

She told me to pull him out of the school. She said she'd tell her child not to play with mine. She snaps when my boy asks her if her's can come and play.

I don't know what she whittered to Media dad other than "three's a crowd, three's a crowd." But the next thing you know the man I'm getting on well with starts blanking me! My life in the playground suddenly mirrors my son's. It's surreal.

Still, Media dad is not ugly. He hasn't insulted my child, projected his bile onto him. He's still very gentle with him, even invited him round for a sleepover. Nothing short of a miracle I thought at the time but good for his son, for mine, for their relationship.

Children ey. What can you do? Particularly when they are in their 40's.

The School Run

"Come on, hurry up!" I say to my son. "We're going to be late!"

We leave the flat, call the lift, then go down. At the bottom there is glass everywhere. The window is still in the front door but looks as though giant snowflakes have been carved into it. Crunch crunch crunch over the million shards, we step outside and race to school, getting there as the whistle goes. The bell rings. My son doesn't give me a kiss like all the other sons do for their mammas. He never does as he says his love for me is "private".

"How are things?" I say to O's mum as I walk away. "The lift is broken in my block and I have to walk up 18 flights of stairs. I can't face it," she says. Eighteen! And I complain about seven!

She tells me there are two lifts but whilst one is being repaired, the whole system has been shut down. "Yesterday I had to carry her all the way up," she says looking down at her two year old. "I only got to the 10th and I was exhausted. Still, it's good exercise..." I laugh. "The only way we can deal with it is seeing it like that."

I get to the maisonettes, which are part of my estate and see Peggy, E&R's mum. I tell her the window's been smashed in my block. "Aye, there's a lot of care in the community folk live there. Last week one of them pulled a knife to E's throat." She called the police and E gave a statement, but because E's friend, who was with her in the playground at the time, wasn't allowed to by her own mother, the police "can't do anything." Peggy's angry but her voice is so soft. The girls are 10 years old.

I tell her perhaps the other mother was scared of the repurcussions on her own family, which is why she wouldn't allow her daughter to give a statement. Peggy thinks it over.

She says she'll tell the police that if it happens again, she'll take the matter into her own hands. "The police know me. I'm on first name terms with them at Holborn," and she laughs, embarrassed. She's quite serious though. Shouldn't one statement be enough? What needs to happen?

I round the corner to my block. A maintenance van is parked alongside the playground. "Have you come to fix the window?" I ask the man. He looks bemused, doesn't know what I'm talking about. "Come and see," I say. Kosovan dad is there waiting for the lift. "What do you think it is?" I ask them both. Earlier my son had thought it was caused by a brick and then changed his mind and said a gun.

We look at the damage, circles where the glass has seized and fractures like strands of hair that spill out of them. Repair man thinks its bullet holes. Kosovan dad thinks its probably caused by a repeated pounding with a metal rod. The lift arrives. "You getting in?" he asks.

I get home and make myself a cup of tea. The glass will be cleared up by the time the kids come back from school, our caretaker's a good man. One hopes the window will be replaced as well. That's my school run this morning.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

We build, we sell.....

Yesterday, February 23rd, at least five Camden council properties went up for public auction. Somebody on the 17000 strong council flat waiting list would have happily moved into 87a Iverson Road but instead it falls into private developers hands.

According to the Camden New Journal, Frank Dobson Labour MP is also furious at the "ludicrous" recent sale of a block of flats in Holborn which, said the Journal, went for £350, 000 - "next to nothing"(29th Jan). Camden is a libdem/conservative borough now and these chiefs are making the decisions. Scary huh.

But! Good news! On January 30th, Times Online, which daily plops into my inbox, informed me that the government has pledged to build more social houses. Ooh.

So I have a question or two for you Gordy Brown.
Why are you pledging to build new homes while saying nothing of the existing ones being auctioned off?
Why don't you do both? Build new social houses and refurbish existing ones?
Are you really going to build more Gordy? I do hope so. In Camden too?

On Question Time last week Sarah Teather, shadow housing minister of the Lib Dems, said there are 1.7 million families in the UK waiting for a council flat (how many individuals? How many all told?)

1.7 million families waiting for a stable and affordable home. My son and I are one of them. I don't understand. Build with one hand, sell with the other? Please explain someone, please explain. I may have to ask someone but given how I find housing so depressing, you may just have to wait for an answer from me.

Monday, 23 February 2009


On Saturday night I was around at Jab and her hubby's house so my son could play with little T. Jab's hubby isn't liking England at the moment (he's not alone...) and was saying how we are all prisoners, none of us are free. I don't get into conversations like that anymore because I get too depressed but I suddenly had a thought, so here it is:

If we are all prisoners then me and my fellow stigmums and stigmates are paid to be one
You, the taxpayer pays to be one.
If that's the way you think no wonder you hate us
If that's the way I think I'll never work again



A man from the council rang. He's my new 'support worker' and he's coming on Thursday to do my 'House Planning Interview'. This means I have to tidy up.

In the old days, every six months, I was required to go down to the HPU (homeless person's unit), sit in an open cubicle infront of perspex glass and say "no, my circumstances haven't changed, no I won't take the private rental option, yes, I'll keep bidding...."

These days they come to my flat.

My flat is a privately owned ex council flat. The landlady has an agreement with a housing association and Camden council sublets it from them. There's no point of reference for me when there's a problem. It can be a pain in the arse.

Still, he's coming Thursday. Must tidy up. Before now, council officials have stepped over the threshold of my home and told me I could be evicted for the mess. The housing association has issued similar threats. The landlady raises an eyebrow whenever she comes and my two female neighbours took it upon themselves to make separate judgemental attacks.

"What kind of example are you setting your son?" crowed the stigmum of two. We're no longer friends. Not that we were, friends that is. I bumped into her one night in the lift, discovered she was a fellow stigmum and invited her in for a drink. I invited her to carry on insulting me too (I was quite surprised given she didn't know me), but my friend Steve was with me and told her to leave, so she did. I asked the other neighbour if she wanted to hit me (because she has a record and she does know me) but she didn't because beneath the horror of her childhood experiences I know she's a very nice girl (with an immaculate flat).

Well meaning mates say they are worried about me. Worried that the material chaos is symbolic of the lack of value I place on my own life; indicative of my lack of self worth. "It's like your housing situation is taking over your life," says Chus. Well, ok, yes, I guess you could say so.

I've always been messy. Ask my mum. Ask lovely Mr Hayes at Shit School. Oh you can't, he got stolen away with multiple sclerosis long ago.

People can say what they will. On my wall I've stuck an old newspaper headline:
"Good news for messy people: tidiness is bad for you." (Sunday Times Feb 18th 2007)
We'll see if new support worker cracks a smile on Thursday.

Still, I should make an effort. I hate tidying. It's an abhorrent, repetitive, boring, never completed job. I shall dig out my Diana Ross CD. She kept me company when I worked on the luxury motor yachts; the endless hours cleaning and ironing when on crews mess duty.
My baby love will sing to me while I scrub scrub scrub scrub scrub scrub scrub scrub scrub the whole day through.

Although my son will be elated to have a patch of carpet to play on, tidying won't help my argument with the council that the flat's too small. They'll think the space is adequate for both our lives if it looks too neat. Perhaps I should leave the carnage after all. In terms of banging heads (or feather dusters) with the council, for me tidying up is a no win situation.
I should stop, in the name of life, before they leave us here
Start, in the name of life, before they chuck us out of here
I'll think it o o ver......

Saturday, 14 February 2009

I'm angry with Tony Kerridge

In the furore over 13 year old Alfie Patten fathering a daughter with 15 year old Chantelle Steadman, Tony Kerridge, a spokesman for Marie Stopes International, is quoted in the Guardian today as saying:

"We have got the social aspect of young girls in the UK seeing having a baby as a route to getting their own place. These sorts of lifestyle choices can be dealt with on an educational level if teenage girls realise what they are contemplating is a route into social deprivation and being in the benefits culture for the rest of their lives."

Well done Tony. You just go ahead and fuel the completely misguided stereotype of single mothers and council housing, that the housing shortage is due to our fecklessness. Sure, I kept my baby so I could get a council flat on some squalid, stinking estate. Of course I did. It had nothing to do with my personal or religious beliefs did it? Nothing to do with thinking I would regret an abortion? Oh no, not at all.

Conception, and the decision that comes with it, is not always so black and white and not always about council flats, as Tony infers. I have met a woman who got pregnant to get a flat, so I'm not saying it doesn't happen. She was working as a dentist's receptionist. Working. Not on benefits. Hear that Tony? Dot said to Ronnie in Eastenders recently that beneath the skin of many a woman, lies a baby story. What is my story if not a baby story?

However I must thank Michael Gove. In an article for The Times on May 31st 2005, headlined "Pregnancy is a Male Problem" he said:

"It may be cause for concern that we live in a country where girls are giving birth to children at an ever younger age, but we should not forget where the deeper problem lies - with all those men who want to behave like children all their adult lives. " (How many children does Alfie's dad have? Nine the Guardian says, Gove's point exactly....)

Alfie and Chantelle had an accident. Miraculous accidents happen. They had a choice. They chose. What their story doesn't need is thinkers like you Mr Kerridge, who ensure stigmums remain judged and villified by broader society.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Government blackmail and bully boy tactics

Camden council is auctioning over 500 of its street properties to the highest financial bidder. The council is doing this because the Government is blackmailing it. If Camden doesn't accept an ALMO (an Arms Length Management Organisation) whereby its properties are handed over to private initiatives, then the Government won't give it the £293 million it owes it for essential repairs to existing properties (the lifts would be a good start in my block, then again perhaps the plumbing should be looked at before we all drown in a fetid pool of stinking bleurgh). So yes, a home that I could live in with a secure tenancy and affordable rent, the homes that one of the other 17,000 people on the waiting list for a council flat could live in, are going under the hammer.

Apparantly it's been going on for some time. Someone I know has told me that the council has infact auctioned off, or sold, over 2000 properties. My source wouldn't go on the record for my Masters dissertation, he was afraid he'd lose his job within the council. Me though, what do I have to lose? The council is going to shove us in a hostel. So I can whistle while I work, whistle while I work, doop doop di doop doop doop, it isn't a fucking joke.

The battle begins again.....

When I gave the council "What I gave the council" they deleted 'thanks to' and 'won' which meant, despite my best efforts, I lost my war for a secure tenancy. Despite the blessings, help and countless letters from nice priest, Local Hero, my doctor, my social worker, my shrink, the council put us in a hostel.

I saw the room and howled. Back in reception I said to the black woman: "Do you believe in God?" She nodded, dumbfounded. I turned to the Muslim woman: "Do you believe in God?" She too nodded in the affirmative. "So why? Why? Why when we live in a secular country the Church can evict a mother and child and all the council can do is throw us into jail???"
The Muslim woman picked up the phone. "Do we have a bigger room?"
"I don't want a bigger room!" I cried. "I don't want to be here. I'm going, I can't stay here. I can't make my son live with me here." And out I ran, hotly pursued by my social worker who said if I didn't stay there, she couldn't help me. If I stayed there, she would get me out.

I sobbed all the way back to my Church property and refused to leave. Three weeks later social worker had secured a one bedroom flat for us in a papier mache tower. When I visited it there was the burnt out shell of a car in the forecourt. "I don't want us to stay here," I told her.

Two days later she rang to say the council had deemed it appropriate and if I didn't take it, they would put us in a hostel. The night I moved in my brother and sister couldn't bring my stuff up to me as the building was blocked off by riot police. A drugs bust I later discovered.

I've been here since. It's coming up to four years now. It's got nice views of the sunset in winter time. Because the lift is always broken I have to carry my bike up seven flights of stairs. I still carry my son on the back because I can't carry two bikes and he's too young to carry his. The lifestyle keeps me fit, I'll give you that.

Just before Christmas the council came round with tidings that when our lease expires next year, they'll put me and my son in a hostel if we 'don't accept the alternatives'. The alternative is private rented accommodation. The alternative is staying on benefits forever.

This time I'm taking you on the journey with me, if you want to come along that is. You don't have to. It's pretty bleak and miserable.

Last night a friend of mine came to dinner and the subject inevitably swung to housing because I haven't seen him for a long time. "Oh when we get housed we'll live happily ever after!" I told him. My son said: "No mummy, there is no happy ever after. That's just in fairytales."

I laughed and said "You're six. You're too young to be a cynic."

Elvis told us, long ago: "People don't you understand, a child needs a helping hand, he'll turn into an angry young man someday."

We'll see hey, we'll see what the council does to us. In the meantime, enjoy the fragments of my mind, what I have learnt, what I am yet to learn.

A stigmum found a nut in the deep dark wood.
Can't go over it
Can't go under it
Fuck, damn, shit, she'll have to go through it.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

What I gave the Council in 2005

Thanks to/despite my small army - nice priest who blessed me, Local Hero, my doctor, my social worker, my shrink, I won/lost the fight to get my son from God to State in one move, omitting the need for temporary accommodation.
I am proud of England, that it has a welfare system in which to catch vulnerable people. However, it is something else when being a mother on your own isn't enough, being poor isn't enough; you have to be mad too, in order to be housed. If you are not mad, the housing system will soon make sure you are. It has no soul and thinks little of the children.

Everyone has a different story, many much worse than mine. The story starts with a home, it doesn't end there (apart from this one).

(From The Book That Will Never Be Published)

Monday, 9 February 2009

The Church, the Council and Me in 2005

I am copying what I wrote in 2005 but didn't blog it. Didn't blog anything. Here is some of it anyway, a bit of history for you.....

I am writing this in July 2005 where my story is coming to an end. The Church has finally made its application to the courts and I have received mine, which I haven't sent back yet because I don't see the point. For months I have been terrified of going to court as I'm no criminal. But just as I realise that it is good that the Church goes, as a landlord, to stand up in the name of all landlords, I'm told that it won't have to go to court after all. Nor do I. It makes me angry. So many landlords just evict people with no solid reason. The Church may say it needs it for a priest but I know it's business. Business over babies.

Back in September (2004) I received a letter from Christo and Co, the Church's ironically named estate agents, giving me a month to leave the property. Panicking like my old self I bought a copy of Loot and rang everyone, for days. No, no, no came the response from landlords near and local. I went to ask Fix It priest if they had anywhere else. "We are not estate agents," he said.

I went to see the council and cried on my housing advisor for over an hour. "Not again, it's got to stop, first his father, now the Church, it's got to stop!" Housing advisor gave me options:
Go privately again? Noooooooo
Go to the Homeless Persons Unit again? Noooooooo
Friends you can stay with? Not in the same area, noooooooo
Family? Noooooooo
How can we help you then? I don't knooooooooooooooooooooooow.

He contacted the Church and said that legally it had to give me two months notice. The Church complied and notice was set for the week before Christmas, the end of the contract. There was the article I'd threatened to write the year before: No room in the Inn for the single mother and her boy child. I couldn't do it.

I wanted to be out by Christmas. I've never stayed anywhere beyond my notice but then, pre baby, no-one had ever served me notice. Nice priest suggested I throw myself at the Bishop's mercy; he may be able to help. I had nothing to lose.

"We have no duty to care for you," said the Bishop. "It is the council's duty." I was so shocked (though why oh why naive plonkette that I am) I couldn't form a sentence, not even a sharp little pointer gleaned from the bible.

Broken, unable to think for myself, my friend at the Department of Trade and Industry suggested I contact my local MP. I wrote letter after begging letter and he replied saying that there was nothing he could do but that he urged me to talk to the Homeless Person's Unit.

I tried, they were not interested. They said they would help me only when I had a notice to quit from the court and then my son and I would be placed in a hostel as we'd "have no choice."

Then a friend who worked for Cambridge council said "ooh no, you don't want to speak to your MP, you want your local councillor, he can put pressure on the council." I did as I was told. I spoke to several before I hit upon my own. They all agreed the system was flawed. AAAAAGH so why doesn't somebody change it then?

In the park, on my street, my neighbour asked how I was. "Truth or stiff upper lip?" I asked. "Truth," she said. "Shit," I replied. "The council won't help me until the Church goes to court for the flat then they're going to put us in a hostel for two years. Two flipping years."

She pointed out four empty properties in the street. "They've been empty for ages, at least a year. Squatters were in one, friends of a drug addicted mother who was evicted from the other." I was onto Housing Advisor within minutes.
"Take down the boards, I'll do it up!"
"It doesn't work like that," he said.

It's funny how you can live your life looking but never seeing then once you see you look only at what you never saw. I'd go to the park every day, I still do, and all I would see were those empty flats. As long as they were boarded up I hoped, looking up at the sky and imploring. I felt intense hunger for the carrot being dangled infront of me, just out of my reach. Then a few months later the boards were taken down off one of them and my hope along with them.

Someone was cooking in my kitchen. The thought stuck in my throat like a stale roll. I became deaf, no longer hearing my son call for me. Mute, unable to speak. (This was also a hallmark of my mothering when I was with the father of child. "I've no feelings for you," he'd say. "But they will come back." Over and over again to the pregnant me, the torn me, the made redundant me, the father with cancer me. I should have slapped myself but instead became a wilted flower stuck in the shadows, begging for sun, gasping for water. My deaf/mute hallmark is one I recognise with each new shock I receive from the situation I'm in. I think it's fear.)

My local councillor, herein to be called my Local Hero because he's so good to me, fights so hard for me, had words with the Church. Said the notice it had given me wasn't very Christian and would they extend it to the New Year. They did, but it made no difference to me. I felt like an unwelcome tenant. I just wanted out.

In January I expected the court summons but the Church now had lawyers and they came round one night with a notice of repossession, this time for May. It was to give me more time, said Nice priest. More time for what? The council weren't going to help me. In fact the council closed my file.
"Why?" I cried (again) down the phone to Housing Advisor. "It's not over yet."
"Nothing's happening," he said. "It's procedure."

I spoke to Housing Advisor's boss. The questions coming so fast that if he paused to reply I took it to mean he didn't know the answer.
"How many single mothers are there in my situation?"
"How many are waiting to go to court?"
"How many court evictions are there a month? A dozen? Two dozen?"
"Not many," he said. "Most referrals come from family, friends and overseas."
"So what? I'm being penalised for coming from the private sector?"
"Different rules apply there."

I can understand the rules, to an extent. If the rules weren't so harsh and punitive the council would not be able to control the quell that would come from the monstrously expensive private rental sector. Still, how often do you get a stigmum evicted by the Church? Make an exception for me!
Can I be viewed as Homeless at Home? No. That is for people who are living indefinitely in the home.
Err, not me then who is waiting indefinitely for all this to end?
Can I be viewed as in temporary accommodation now so that after I receive the bailiff's warrant I can be housed permanently? After all, with the Church as my temporary residence, it means the council's temporary places could go to someone who needs it, a mother for example who's had six shades kicked out of her by her partner.

May comes round and suddenly I am allowed to start bidding for properties. Why now? Why not before? All these months I could have been bidding before I was made homeless and my paltry points REDUCED.

We have 140 points my son and I. He is worth FIVE points. Five. Do you have a child? A niece? A nephew? How much are they worth? Five points?

We have 100 points for insecure housing. These will be taken away when we join the homeless unit. As if to add insult to injurty Housing Advisor tells me once I am homeless my waiting list application will be suspended and it could be "some time" before I qualify for council housing.

We get 30 points for over crowding and I get another five for being on benefits. Whoopee doo.

I must mention at this juncture that I feel very sorry for my Housing Advisor, though not at the moment because just as the shit is about to hit my fan he's buggered off on holiday for three weeks. I feel for him because every time I call he says "We've been through this before."
"Yes, but but, I don't understand and in limbo things go round and round in your head and it makes no sense."

Housing Advisor can do nothing. He works for this unforgiving, incompetent, inefficient machine. He does what he can for me but it's hard with his hands so tightly bound behind his back.

In April I finally sent off my medical assessment form. I should have done this much earlier to coincide with the letter my doctor sent in October but found the whole thing just too depressing. So in May, when I can start bidding, I ask Housing Advisor where my medical points are. I need the extra points.
"There's a backlog," he says. "I'll chase them up for you."
I say OK. Then I ring him the next week. There's still a backlog.
"What do you mean?" I finally ask.
"Just that, there's a backlog."
"Why is there a backlog?"
"There's only one medical officer."
"There's only one medical officer."
"Only one medical officer and 15000 people on the waiting list?"

It's July, my Local Hero and my social worker are both chasing up those points. That's one hell of a flipping backlog.

It's pointless bidding without them. It's pointless bidding with them to tell the truth. I need at least 300 points to get anywhere and my medical points might only tot up to 20. Still, that's more than my son is worth.

There isn't even any point going out and getting pregnant. I'd have to hope for sextuplets, and then not for the points. Does six children constitute over crowding? Are there any mothers in the hostels with six children? Or only those with one or two? The odds of my carrying sextuplets however are very slim. There aren't even twins in my family.

I have explored EVERY avenue and have exhausted them all. Even the going back to my parents option which the government would like but which I can't do. They still love me. Better it remains that way. Besides, I want my own home, build my own roots, and create my own nest for my fledgling child.

So yes, the court date I've been dreading is no longer happening. Instead a letter is going to to drop through my letter box giving me 14 days to vacate my flat. When it will drop through I have no idea. If I sent back my defence form I could ask for another 42 days. But what is the point? What good will waiting another 42 days do when I have already been waiting for 301? (this is written in real time, I won't edit). How will I know when my 42 days start? Will a letter plop onto my doormat giving me 14 days after that? If you don't understand this garbled paragraph, rest assured that I don't either. Local Hero is currently looking into it for me.

I am useless; I am scared, I am angry; I am so utterly without will. I just want to tell my son one day that the Church and our country did us a huge favour. I do not want him to suffer on account of me. All I'm after, after all, is a secure flat I can rent.

This has led me to a perhaps foolish decision. I have decided to 'trespass'. If the council insists on punitively incarcerating us in a hostel, or come to think of it, any temporary accommodation, then I will refuse to move. The council has known we are coming for months. We are not an emergency. The Bishop will have to get bailiffs onto me.

Local Hero tells me this is a bad idea. Bailiffs he says, will throw all my things out onto the pavement and it will be humiliating. I am past caring. I will sit on the pavement with my son on my lap and I will cry. I will cry because I have done this to him. It was predicted that my lfie would end up in the gutter. Not his though.

I will cry not because it's raining on my clothes, on my books, on my music, on my photos, on my life, but because I could not prevent taking my son down with me. I will cry because it is raining on his toys.

My landlord is God though. I trust Him/Her/It. I don't believe the Bishop will do that to us. Local Hero believes he will.

I will not tip off the press. I was a journalist once, briefly, you see. I don't want the story told at my expense. Or worse, my son's. We could be anybody. What ever I've written in this collection of fragments has been done to keep me busy, hold back the fear that threatens to engulf me. It's all stuff I've been thinking about in limbo and obviously I hope you get something from it, even if that is nothing at all.

One more thing. A council email fell into my lap. It reads:
"Homelessness is not the easy route to social housing."

So would someone please tell me?

The strength

A Chinese fortune-teller once told me to stop smoking, my heart was weak. He told me to stop drinking whisky (how do you know??), my liver wasn't strong enough. He looked at my face: "You are a good person." He looked at my ear: "You will have a son."

I was 14 when my parents sent me to boarding school. I reacted by having fun, lots of it. So much so that two years later Sister Headmistress said "You're a good person Susie but we can't control you, we're going to have to ask you to leave."

I chose to go to Shit School where a priest told me I was "working for the Devil". He said I'd been "sent by Satan" for chatting during Mass.

Sometime later I was fooling around before Night Prayers when the Deputy Head, a lay man, forbade me to go into the Church because, he said "God doesn't want you there." "Tell you personally did He?" I spat, then snuck in anyway.

So when I threw myself at the Bishop's mercy and asked to stay until the council housed us properly and he said: "We have no duty to care for you," (my son wasn't with me thank God)

Well, what can I say?

Good? Don't call me good.
The stigmum found a nut in the deep dark wood.
Can't go over it
Can't go under it
Oh no, I'll have to go through it

The story, the very beginning.....

28th February 2005

Dear Tony Blair,
You have pledged to help each and every one of us. Please would you help me and my son?
Our landlord, the Greek Orthodox Church, is going to evict us from our home. Camden Council will not house us until the Church goes to court for repossession of its property. This could take months. The council will then put us into temporary accommodation - a hostel - for up to two years. Two years Mr Blair. I have asked that we be viewed as in temporary accommodation now, but no. Our 140 points - my son is worth just five - will be reduced when we hit the pavement. We stand no chance of successfully bidding for a flat in limbo. What then in hell?
Since my son was born in September 2002 I have been made redundant twice though technically once as the move was within the same company. The father of child handed me notice on the flat we shared the same week I lost my job in October 2003. After a long and difficult search the Church took in me and my son, aptly, the week before Christmas. The Church is an establishment that preaches the protection of vulnerable people. It has postponed the day of notice several times since September. Understandably it does not want to go to court. Quite simply it wants its property back. I do not want to go to court. Quite simply I want to take my son home.
Last month I was offered a job. I wanted this job. It paid well for few hours. The job centre advised I turn it down as I'd be worse off. So I languish in the benefits trap, unable to plan for my son, unable to move forward with my life, fearing our future.
I accept there is a housing shortage but there are plenty of empty properties. There are two in my street. I sent a begging letter to the owners, Circle Thirty Three Housing Association, of which Margaret Hodge is patron. I was urged to talk to my council. I have, I do, it closed my file two weeks ago, the case far from over.
I ask that my son and I be viewed independently. That an exception be made for us as exceptions have been made for others I have met, others I have heard of.
We stand before God and our country and ask for a stable, affordable home.
I didn't terminate my pregnancy Mr Blair, and amongst my wildest fears I never dreamt my decision would lead to this.
It is a thin blue line that separates the consummate professional from the guttersnipe. It is a thin blue line that separates Middle England from the Underworld. I do not wish my son to see the Underworld. I wish to return him to Middle England from whence I came.
I know you are a busy man Mr Blair. I would not ask your help if I didn't deem it necessary. Imagine you are God. Talk to your disciples. For my son. For his future.

Yours sincerely

Sue de Nim