‘Mentally Ill, Being Evicted, Have No Friends, UK.’
Sometimes I wonder how we got here. I mean how did we reach the stage where a fellow human person can see no other solution to their problem than asking online, late at night? Yes, this is about more statcounter misery. The sentence above was a search term used to find my blog recently, and it made me cry.
So many issues were raised by just one, simple, raw enquiry. Firstly, being mentally ill is still an insurmountable barrier to being housed in the private sector. Technically, discrimination is illegal, but on the sly, by asking pertinent questions, it’s often possible for ruthless, devious, prejudiced fellow tenants, letting agents and potential rentiers to unearth evidence of mental health problems.
‘I’m being evicted.’ Well, the place for advice is Shelter, Citizen’s Advice, your council’s homelessness unit, or a solicitor, but legal aid has been cut in England, where you live, so also try MIND. Why are you being evicted – rent arrears, the bedroom tax, end of contract, or other reasons?
The most upsetting part of that question is the ‘have no friends.’ Isolation is horrible, and anyone can find themselves adrift in a world of self-absorbed couples, like a lone gnu on Noah’s Ark. They might have moved to a new town for work or study, whilst exhibiting ‘challenging’ behaviour, then watched everyone back off slowly, phone calls unanswered and invitations dying away. It’s not only older people who live solitary lives of constant despair – younger people also suffer.
Claimants under 35 must share, and non-claimants are usually too broke to live alone. Service users might be socially awkward, and could face interview panels, when the simple common fact of being a claimant in itself effectively hinders acceptance, so imagine:
‘Tell us a little about yourself…’
‘Well I like music, art, and I love washing up… oh – I’m also on medication for schizophrenia.’
Couldn’t we start a register of socially responsible, reasonable, enlightened rentiers willing to house mental health service users? Yes, this could well stifle that hands-off, no-bother, low-key management so beloved of buy-to-let, but… so what. That pension is their reward. I also wonder if the notorious shamefully ‘risk averse’ insurers see all mentally ill people as potential fire starters, when they are in fact more likely to harm themselves than others.
I have lived in developments where tenants were housed by the council, then left alone to cope, unsupported. Sometimes people rallied round, but occasionally residents shared concerns only to see things go badly wrong, once when a resident attempted to take their own life much to the amusement of a giggling temporary caretaker.
It’s simple. Some people get colds, some endure cancer or suffer various illnesses, and others have mental health problems. Recently a straw poll of my acquaintances revealed, inter alia: eating disorders, attempted overdoses, self-harm, severe depression, and psychotic episodes. That’s a normal cross section of society.
Who will accept responsibility for someone in this predicament? Nobody should be left alone to google their desperation. Whoever you are, I hope you’re okay. I wish you every good fortune, but I’d be lying if I said finding another home will be easy. If you see this, let me know what happens, please.