Every Where Is Some Where
Throughout our lives, we will come to find ourselves in a lot of different places
a lot of different rooms
a lot of different corners
a lot of different wheres
This week will be the 17th year of being in our council house – our home after experiencing months of real homelessness growing up. It hits differently this year, after working as a councillor.
Now, 17 years is quite some time, and it’s also a weird amount of time to bring it up. Every time April passes, I always give this anniversary a nod. A strange time. I sit out in the garden, look at the house and think it all through, grace my gratitude to the house & system that enables it, for being able to still be here, and how it is – essentially – our home. It’s seen some stuff. And it’s been here for us through all the deaths and illnesses, the hard times and the good.
when i was younger, my father made us homeless (it was really complicated but basically, in the end, it was us fleeing a very, long term, violent domesticated living situation. My mom, my bro and i left our home, a banged up car packed full of suitcases and some boxes.
i don’t remember the packing, but i do remember the leaving. it was chilly and wet in Doncaster. In the beginning of a blistery November.
The interesting thing is, when you’re made homeless – the act of being homeless doesn’t naturally give you enough points for a council house (extremely flawed). So we were officially homeless, without enough points for *any* house, and not enough £ to rent privately. the plan was to move in with my nan and her 1 bedroom house, and later friends whilst we figured it out. Unfortunately, my nan’s private landlord found out we were overcrowding & threatened to make her homeless too. So after xmas we left. We ended up sleeping in the car a few times, and ended up in temporary accommodation which would change *daily* across South and West Yorkshire for months, and i overstayed my welcome at friends houses – all whilst I was doing my exams at school. I actually got elected as a youth councillor then too. which is pretty mad. (Please note that NOW if you’re a victim of domestic abuse, you’re dealt with in a much more compassionate, and much faster, safer way! fantastic work locally here)
I remember pulling up at my nan’s super small house. There was heavy air when we parked the car in a new driveway.
my mom and i were both crying, for different reasons, but also some of the same ones. and then, as sure as the first hand clicks from 12 to 1, it all seemed insane and hilarious — the clothes we brought with us, the rain, the escape from a shitty situation, the stupid little banged up car.
‘we’ll laugh about this some day’ my mom said and we both laughed.
because even though it was hard to leave many (too many) years of an awful domestic violent relationship, and a home we had invested in and had happy memories too, and terrible to be soaked with rain and confusing what would happen next and where we would live, we were alive and together.
for a long time I was ashamed of what had happened to us. i told none of my friends at the time. i would make all these zany excuses why people couldn’t come to my house, why i wasn’t in at home. why my art teacher was giving me a lift home, which got even wilder when i was staying in accommodation everywhere else & no longer would take up her lift offers. she got a bit offended about it. But it was because i couldn’t tell my teacher that we were homeless. shame. embarrassment.
but as I’ve gotten older – I realize that it’s a story / experience to learn from & witness. And is, sadly, not even that unique. Nearly a year into being a councillor means that I’ve been thinking a lot about safety, care, and housing/homes. we desperately need a new offer. the government needs to pull its finger out.
we need a massive social housing building programme across england, but especially in Doncaster.
Housing is probably my 3rd biggest casework theme. And my heart sinks everrrrrytime I get a new case that is about needing housing. because there’s just not enough of it. and every situation around us from cost of living, housing, social care & beyond – all feed into people needing it. Plus, people want a council house because IT IS SAFE & STABLE. it is not like private renting where you can be kicked out for no reason at all. i think my residents don’t think i understand their frustration, desperation and need. but i do. i understand it more than they know.
the wild thing is, whilst we no longer do a points system, thankfully (banding instead) – the things that made nooo sense to me back then as a teen, still plagues this process now. (I do think banding is, overall, better than a points based systems tho). The system see’s you sofa surfing as not yet (proper) homeless. Which is not correct. I get why the system does this, because you don’t want too many people in the top band, otherwise no one will get a house. But having been the 14/15 year old on the other end of that system, when you don’t have housing security, you don’t know where you’ll be sleeping from one week to another. Then that is absolutely homelessness.
it had such a big effect me, that for a long time at art school – i made work about homelessness, housing and gentrification. A call to arms! A manifesto to challenge this stuff! There was a set of drawings, which i’ve ironically lost now lol, which documented everything i lost, or had to give up/leave behind, due to not having a home. all of my belongings (which, given our pretty poverty upbringing – i cherished my stuff because i was taught you had to work hard for your things). I have since made up for, if anyone ever sees my bedroom background on zoom.
After we got the new council house, the trauma of it all kind of caught up with me. i used to get so anxious, about things like exams, i would feel so sick that I’d vomit up all of my meals. It was like this overbearing reaction. (Now when i get super anxious, my body does the other end instead.) This meant i got really thin just before uni, which i saw as a good thing at the time. My grown self knows now that this was *not good*.
When I see my residents with similar stories, I know what I’m looking for. i see these affects on their lives too. i feel weird for being able to notice it all. the patterns, the way the body reacts, the tiredness/the anger, the actions. sometimes i wonder if i got super sick in my early 20s because of what medicine calls ACEs (adverse childhood experiences). the legacy of various traumatizing systems on women, people of colour, and those who live in poverty, etc. The body keeps score after all. but the system does not.
17 years on. a councillor trying to navigate this gold dust in some of the hardest times of the 21st century in the UK. i think about in the books of our lives, we are both protagonist and narrator. and narrators have incredible power. in writing this, i thought a lot about the places that shape us, and how, in turn, we shape those places in our minds.
as human beings living on earth right now, we find ourselves in a very particular where. most people in the UK could be made homeless fairly easily, out of no control or fault of their own. Most of us (over 60%) are living pay check to pay check. This means if something big happens, we’re instantly thrown into the cycle of debt. this shouldn’t be a thing in the UK.
So now I have at least a tiny, tiny bit of a voice in a (just 1) system, of sorts. I’m re-connecting to 2nd year art school smizz & what would she be doing about campaigning for better and more social housing? Taking some of that learning forwards. Because the current methods we’ve got doesn’t seem to be making the message be heard at national government levels.
for those not in this fight personally, i say look down at your feet and decide what all of this means. together we can say instead of being afraid i’m going to try to be brave, instead of feeling regret i’m going to focus on getting better tomorrow, and instead of hoping that someone else will say it or move it or mean it, i’m going to do it myself.
We NEED to fight and campaign for more and better social housing. EVERYONE deserves safety and a home.
Every where is some where.