What is your experience of home during the pandemic?: "I am disabled lone parent on legacy benefits. I am a former home owner but have been a housing association tenant since becoming homeless originally back in 2005 after a family breakup. I was on unpaid maternity leave with three children aged nine, seven and seven months old.

Originally we were rehomed in a three bedroomed high-rise flat on the fourth floor. The space in the flat was amazing. But the problem was there was nowhere for the children to play a apart from a tarmac compound. There was also the added problem of the lifts either breaking down on a regular basis being full of blood and vomit and excrement. Not pleasant.

16 years later I'm still a housing association tenant. After five years in the flats I was able to secure a three bedroomed semi-detached property with a garden which was phenomenal. My garden has been a source of comfort during the lockdown as it enabled me to get some fresh air when lockdown was at its tightest and it is also home to my rabbits, my dog and my cats. I also get the opportunity to feed the birds which brings me great joy and pleasure.

In terms of feeling safe and secure, it's been a bit of a mixed bag if I'm honest. Although the neighbours in my cul-de-sac are lovely on the whole, it has been quite stressful coping with the levels of domestic violence that I have been hearing in the adjoining property on an almost daily basis. It has been quite triggering for me as I am a survivor of domestic violence and it brings back bad memories. It has been incredibly distressing for my now 16-year-old too.

Around the block are some neighbours who don't like us very much because we reported my son being bitten by their dog to the dog warden and also the housing association. The family concerned were taken to court partly because of that but also other matters that I was not privy to. The problem is because I gave evidence about my son being bitten and it was used in court, divulging my name and address, I have been subject low level intimidation ever since. Neither I or my son feel able to walk down the street and go about our business without the fear of being bullied. Even when I take the bin out for collection day, I record my trip to the drop-off point on my mobile phone in case any trouble starts. Locally we are known as grassers and although I would do the same again it is very stressful.

Furthermore living in a cul-de-sac although quieter is also quite stressful in terms of been blocked in, for example cars parking in front of my driveway and not been able to leave. This relates to being imprisoned in my own home by my former partner and is again very triggering to me. But I daren't kick up a fuss in case it causes more problems.

My Housing Association on the whole are very good. I have managed to secure repairs and adaptations to my property when needed and this level of service has continued strew the pandemic.

However I am now liable for the spare room subsidy a.k.a. bedroom tax. My two older sons are now 24 and 22 and live elsewhere. My eldest son is in the RAF and is based in Scotland. He lives on base in barracks. He needs a room to come home to when he comes home on leave. However, even though I still need the third bedroom for him, we are not exempt from the bedroom tax, so I am now paying £15 per week rent to cover the shortfall in housing benefit. Initially I did qualify for a discretionary housing payment towards the rent but after six months that has now ended. The Council, who are the enforcers of the rules have suggested to me that I should downsize or seek to improve my income. This advice came in a computer-generated letter which I found very depersonalised and dehumanising as it gave no thought to the fact that I am disabled, my home is already partially adapted, and that I am unable to work due to a chronic incurable degenerative neurological condition. The fact that I still need a room from my son for him to come home on leave is not taken into account at all. I argued that barracks are not a home but to no avail.

The other issue I have now is the fact that I struggle with jobs like gardening and painting and decorating because I physically struggle to do it. My 16-year-old is my young carer and has issues of his own that he is struggling with so I feel so guilty in asking him to help out all the time when really he should have the time to grow up normally without such burdens. I do what I can, but I struggle to maintain my home and garden to the standard I would prefer for me and my family and it is a source of great shame.

Furthermore, although I like the house and the view out of my front window & I am grateful that we have a roof over our head, I really don't want to live here. Even though I've lived in the area for over 16 years now I am still considered an outsider. And my house still doesn't feel like a home. My pipe dream is to live in Scotland - a place that each time I visit feels like home to me, but right now being on a low income I lack the means and opportunity."

Meg T
May 16, 2021

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