Real Life Stories

Kevin’s* Story

I’d like to tell you, if I may, about the circumstances that led to my involvement with Housing Matters.

After a bad marriage and resulting divorce settlement I had to to sell my own successful business, which led to a huge disruption of my finances, status, and stability, I decided to take a fresh direction and retrain to gain financial qualifications that would stand me in good stead to pursue the path that I had settled on. This proved very worthwhile and I was fortunate enough, in a relatively short time to secure a higher management role in the area for which I had been aiming.

Whilst deciding on permanent accommodation, I moved into a clean and well-maintained guest house which suited my intentions perfectly at that time.

From my mid-teens, I have suffered from the chronic condition Ankylosing Spondylitis which is a form of rheumatoid arthritis that usually affects the spine. However my case is particularly severe, as it has also invaded my hips, knees, shoulders, ribcage and eyes (associated Acute Iritis). Happily, I lived many years in remission after treatment in my twenties, however, the condition flared up again at the time that I was enjoying my new and desired employment. This, sadly, led to the loss of my new position.

The decline in my health and finances was rapid and stark; once of independent and sufficient means, I was now reliant on sickness benefit.  Distracted by constant pain and non-stop medical appointments, I hadn’t fully absorbed the level of degeneration of my current lodgings and the fact that the calibre of clientele had altered significantly. The conditions had become unhealthy and subject to damp and mould which is not conducive to good health for anybody, much less somebody in my condition. I have never really been a person to actively look for help, not for reasons of misplaced pride or stubbornness, but because my general attitude is that one just “makes do” with whatever one has, both good and bad.  So many negatives coming all at once had knocked my confidence and self-esteem, so I  accepted that I was lodged in deteriorating accommodation and there wasn’t very much that I could do about it.

An assessment visit from an Adult Community Health Professional soon highlighted the detrimental effect of my accommodation, and introduced me to Housing Matters where I met the Project Coordinator, Jo Chapman, who explained the services , advice and practical help which Housing Matters could offer to me. I was very surprised to discover that I could be described as homeless!  My immediate reaction was to point out that I wasn’t, and had never been homeless, the expression instantly engendering a picture of ‘Skid Row’ or somebody wrapped in newspaper in a car park or doorway. However, I learned that the term “homeless”  doesn’t solely mean someone with no roof over their head, but also covers those people who live in any accommodation that is unsuitable for their needs, such as myself. Presented in those terms, a whole range of people, from young to elderly, in all walks of life could be described as homeless.

I  made enquiries on my own behalf to Government Departments and found that advice and help was sparse and unforthcoming. Furthermore, unlike the UK there is no legal obligation for Local Authorities or the Isle of Man Government to house anyone, no matter how desperate the needs of the individual.  How lucky we are to have Housing Matters to ease our path.

I found that all the necessary advice and services are offered by Housing Matters and are ready to hand. Housing Matters identified a suitable flat within 24 hours and provided all of the support needed to enable, and make my move smoother than I could have anticipated.I moved into the flat, and quickly found myself settled and content. Jo stopped by on a ”follow-up” visit shortly after my move, to check that I was content and comfortable before signing my case off.  Jo also advised me not to hesitate to call Housing Matters at any time, should I heed further assistance.

The flat was a substantial step up from the previous accommodation and I soon felt my spirit lift. I regained my old cheerful self and my health steadily improved.  Regrettably, four months into my new residency, I suffered a S.T.E.M.I. heart attack. I was stabilized and then flown to Liverpool Heart & Chest Hospital where I was operated on. This episode came totally out of the blue and I have the firm belief that with an invigorated outlook due to my new circumstances, I took proper notice and action during the event and that if I was still in my previous situation, I would have ignored the difference in the pains dismissing them as yet another part of Ankylosing Spondylitis, and tried to ‘sleep it off’, which the medical staff in the Coronary Care Unit told me could have had disastrous if not terminal consequences.

Contentedly installed in my new residence, I had registered on a local authority Housing List,though I had no expectations of movement in that area for a number of years. However, after a follow-up meeting to review my future needs, Housing Matters referred me to the Department of Social Care (housing), as my conditions are degenerative and I am approaching retirement age.  It was felt that ground floor accommodation was most appropriate, as it would mean that I would be able to live independently for a greater length of time. After various meetings, I was allocated a new build, fully disabled adapted apartment, close to local amenities, shops and bus routes. The apartment was, of course unfurnished, so I needed large items such as carpets, a bed, cooker, fridge and sofa to start to build my new home. Housing Matters again came to my aid by contacting other organisations that they work with to facilitate the acquisition of the necessary items for me to take up and enjoy my new situation. I was, and have been astonished to witness the impressive rapport and co-ordinated interaction that’s obviously been constructively developed between Housing Matters and numerous other bodies.

Jo checked on me during the move, then visited my new home once I had settled in to make sure all was well. I have now been in for over a year and I’m delighted at the very uplifting difference and improvement in my situation and mind-set since coming into contact with Housing Matters and in such a relatively short time. Living in a healthy environment has enabled me to build new friendships within a neighbourhood, meaning I am no longer isolated by my health, manage my medical appointments by myself and so much more.  I have now had my first Christmas in a permanent home of my own with my own little tree for the first time in years. The amalgamation of these beneficial factors has encouraged me to offer my time to Housing Matters, health permitting on a volunteer basis and have found that my few hours a week are therapeutic in allowing me to feel of some value again, much improving my rather buckled self-esteem.I had resigned myself to a sedentary and quiescent existence, unable to be useful and productive any more, but now feel like a value member of a community once again.

This substantial and fundamental transition took place over only eighteen months and I am of the opinion that where a body or individual is proficient and adept at what they do, and have done it well, it should be recognized. Accordingly, my case to all conclusions must be expressed as a resounding and formidable success.

Domestic Violence

Housing Matters assists a distressed family together find support and housing in their time of need…..

Aalish*returned to the Island with 3 children to flee from her abusive and violent husband in the UK. She had been born and raised on the Island and had returned home to seek refuge with her brother.

At first everything was cramped, but bearable. However, living in overcrowded conditions, it wasn’t long before things became unsettled and disagreements began. In short order a letter was received from Douglas Town Commissioners meaning that it became impossible for Aalish and her 3 children to continue to stay at her brothers’ house and they had to leave, with immediate effect.

The fact that Aalish was seeking refuge from marital abuse, traumas & hardship suffered in the UK, meant that she was entitled to receive some benefits, but with 3 children, the maximum housing allowance she was entitled to made it extremely difficult to find suitable accommodation for all her family. This was a tremendously stressful time and Aalish felt guilty that she had taken her children away from their home, school and friends into an uncertain future with no light at the end of the tunnel. She often wondered whether it really was a case of “better the devil you know.” Everything changed for Aalish when she was referred to Housing Matters via the Commissioners Office.  Housing Matters’ trained staff worked alongside the family to contact known supportive landlords to find them an affordable home.

Housing Matters also helped Aalish explore other income possibilities and welcomed her to their‘Drop In Service’ where medical help was provided to heal injuries sustained from the abusive previous relationship. The family are now settled in private accommodation, with the children happy in local schools, Aalish  working full time in gainful employment and on the local authority housing list.

Mary’s* Tale

It was love at first sight. Mary’s parents didn’t like Brian, but then they didn’t really approve of any of Mary’s friends anyway. Mary and her Mum could rub along quite nicely, but her step father  had always made her feel unwanted. When Brian suggested they move to the Isle of Man as a couple, Mary jumped at the chance to make a new life for herself, away from all the criticism and disapproval.

As soon as Mary stepped off the ferry things changed, and not for the better. Brian went from being an attentive and loving partner to being a rude, angry abuser. He started staying out late drinking with his mates and leaving Mary home alone. She had not had the chance to make new pals to keep her company or lift her spirits. When Mary became pregnant she hoped Brian would be pleased and find prospective fatherhood a powerful reason to settle down, but that was not to be. Brian yelled at Mary, blamed her for being “stupid enough” to fall pregnant, and after making the point that he did not want to be a father he walked out.

Mary thought she could cope along. But soon discovered that she wasn’t entitled to any benefits and her step father refused to have her back (‘you got into this mess, get yourself out!’) and she had a baby on the way. It was a really scary time. She did little part time jobs which got round work permits, but paid peanuts. She got into relationships simply for the support and contribution to the rent. What did it matter if he hit her a bit, at least there was food for the baby.

Her daughter Jade is now five. Mary works as a bar maid during the day and Saturday nights. She pays £8.50 a day for after school care and £40 for a babysitter on Saturday night, which eats into her income. She is very proud that the only benefit she claims is Fis because she wants her daughter to see that if you want things, you have to work for them.

She gets very lonely in the evenings when her daughter is in bed and depressed as she looks round the flat she pays £600 a month for. There are no light fittings in the bathroom so they have to use a torch at night. No wonder her make up always looks funny! There are cracks in the windows, which are in worn out metal frames and let in the drafts and noise. The flat is so damp. Once a week she washes the mould off the walls and she lost count of how many clothes and shoes have been ruined. Her daughter has asthma, which the doctor says is made worse by the damp. When the little one has sleepovers with her friends she doesn’t wheeze. Many encourages her to stay at her friend Milly’s as often as possible but gets embarrassed because she can’t invite her back. Mary and Jade spend as much time as possible out of the flat as they can. She dreads coming back to it. She has spoken to the landlord about repairs but he told her that if she didn’t like it she could leave and she knows there is no where else to go. He frightens her. He calls in unexpectedly day or night and is charming at first; ‘I am sure we can come to some other friendly arrangement over the rent if you can’t pay’ and then aggressive when she asks him to leave. She worries for Jade.

The washing machine broke and luckily her mum helped her out; ‘don’t tell your step father, it’s a one off’. Now the cooker is on its last legs and there will be no rescue package from mum.

She spoke to a Solicitor who told her to withhold the rent until the repairs are done, but she daren’t. The landlord would chuck her out, she is sure.

She has tried to get public housing and joined the list of many. They have told her it will be at least 2 ½ years. She told them about the state of the flat and Jade’s asthma, but it is still 2 ½ years.

They never see Brian. Apparently he has another woman pregnant and left her as well. He claimed to have no money for maintenance but he seems to go out a lot and drives a posh car. It hurts Jade, she wants a dad like other kids. But Jade is happy and does well at school so Mary must have got something right!

* All names have been changed, to ensure anonymity.

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    Housing Matters Isle of Man
    3 Albany Lane
    Woodbourne Road
    Isle of Man
    IM2 3NS

Isle of Man Charity Registration number 1007