Wales & West Housing resident Cara (not her real name) was in deep crisis at the start of 2019. She owed thousands of pounds in bills and was in danger of losing her home.
Then one-day something happened that would make a huge difference to her wellbeing and help her keep her home.
Here’s her story….
“I was in such a dark place. My debts were mounting up. Every day another official brown envelope would arrive in the post.
I just shoved them in a drawer without even opening them. I was too afraid.
Bailiffs and debt collectors would bang on my door. It felt like they were trying to break in, so I would hide in fear.
“We know you’re in there. You might as well open the door, you’re gonna have to pay us the money you owe eventually,” they shouted through my letterbox.
“They all wanted money. Money I didn’t have. I knew it was wrong to avoid everyone, but I was in such a dark place I couldn’t see a way out. It was easier to hide.”
I loved my flat. I had lived there for many years. But my life started unravelling after I lost my job. I found it difficult to pay my bills. My rent arrears were going up. I was so consumed by my debts that it was affecting my health. The worry was overwhelming. I was suffering with anxiety and depression and the weight was dropping off. Most days I wouldn’t get out of bed. I couldn’t face what the day ahead would bring.
“Then one day an envelope landed on my doormat. I was expecting more bad news and threats, but this looked different.”
There were no threatening big red letters on the front, just my name neatly hand-written in blue ink.
With some trepidation I opened it. It was from a woman who worked at Wales & West Housing. I was surprised as I had been avoiding all calls from my Housing Officer.
“I want to help you keep your home, but we need to talk,” she wrote. “Please could we meet up somewhere safe?”
I was in danger of losing everything anyway, so what did I have to lose?
I agreed to meet with her at a nearby office. When the day came I was so worried, I nearly didn’t go. But something inside told me this would be different.
I arrived at the office and the woman opened the door, smiling. “How are you Cara? How’s the family?” I told her. And as I chattered away nervously, she listened. The more I talked, the more comfortable I felt.
“For the first time in a very long time, I felt I was being listened to.”
I told her about my situation, how I’d lost my job and was desperately trying to find work.
“I feel so helpless,” I heard myself saying. “I don’t want to lose my home, but I just don’t know where to turn. I really need help.”
As the words left my mouth, I shocked myself. I had never admitted this to myself, let alone another person.
“And I want to help you,” she smiled. “But we need to do this together. No hiding.”
The woman arranged for me to meet with a Tenancy Support Officer from WWH. I was amazed at how much they knew about debts and benefits and the places I could go for help.
“I wasn’t judged, I was understood, and I realised I wasn’t facing this on my own.”
I worked with her and as I faced my problems, she supported me to get the financial and medical help I needed.
Looking back, I wish I hadn’t let things build up as much as they had. But now I am working my way to a better place.
Gradually I am working to get on top of my debts. My health is improving too.
It has been quite a journey, a bit bumpy at times, but it has been worth it. I feel like I’m beginning to see the light.
“If anyone in a similar position asked me for advice, I would say ‘don’t ignore the offers of help. Speak to your Housing Officer or someone at WWH. Those offers of help are real… you are not alone.”
How we can help
WWH’s experienced Tenancy Support Officers and housing staff are ready to help residents in financial difficulty just like Cara.
They can help to:
• Deal with debts
• Advise on benefits
• Help to maximise finance
“Our main aim is to help residents keep their homes” says a Tenancy Support Officer. “But we can only help if people are willing to talk to us and are open and honest about their problems.
We can arrange to contact them in any form they wish.
There is no need to feel ashamed or afraid. Whatever the situation is, we will have seen worse.
If we don’t know there is a problem, we can’t help.”