City Hall bosses say they are doing all they can to help, including increasing the number of available homes, but more and more people need help.
Homeless people in Wigan – from families to a now disabled ex-soldier – shared their difficult experiences of living in temporary accommodation and trying to find a permanent place.
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Jaqueline – whose name has been changed – has been in a hotel since May.
She first went to a homeless shelter in February, but was separated from her daughter, and the couple are now in their fourth hotel.
Jacqueline hopes to move into her own home, but struggles to secure property.
She said: “I didn’t know I could bid on properties, and unbeknownst to me my housing officer had offered me a two-bedroom apartment.
“I would never have bet on a two-bedroom apartment because I have two teenagers – a boy and a girl. I need a house.
“This apartment is in a neighborhood with a lot of crime. I went to see it and there was a party in the back yard. I’m a recovering alcoholic, I haven’t had a drink in over two years and I don’t want to be in a situation where it’s going to interfere with my recovery.
“I have mental health diagnoses – I have complex PTSD and am currently unable to work due to my addiction and mental health issues. I also have Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder and alcoholism, all on my diagnostic sheet.
“The housing officer told me she was going to offer me the apartment. I said I didn’t want the apartment and that I wouldn’t bid for an apartment. not take it, so I’m on the street again.
“It had a devastating impact on my mental health. I went to the doctor about two months ago, extremely suicidal, having suicidal thoughts.”
She refused the apartment because she thinks it would not be a suitable place for her.
She said: “Someone from the council phoned me and said they thought it fit and I had to get out of here. That day I don’t know how I made it. not to drink. I picked up the phone for AA, because they say pick up the phone before you get a drink, and I talked to them.
“I declined and had to write down all the reasons and send them a letter. So it’s being reviewed and I’m just waiting for a response now. I’ve bid on three bedroom homes for me and my two children.”
Living in a hotel has been difficult for Jacqueline, who says the limited food options have led her to have high cholesterol and need folic acid. Meals are at fixed times and there is no laundry.
Jacqueline hopes to go to college to study psychology or do drug and alcohol support, but feels unable to do so when she’s in a hotel.
Kerrie, her partner and their son moved out of their home in January when the owner decided to sell it.
They moved into her mother’s one-bedroom apartment, but found it unsuitable and strained their relationship.
She said: ‘We had to go out at 8am and stay out while she worked from home all day. My partner works nearby but starts at 2pm and works until late so he had to be up early.”
They contacted the homeless team and claim they were told to ‘beg’ Kerrie’s mum to let them stay.
They stayed for 10 weeks – with Kerrie sleeping on the sofa, her partner on the floor and her son sharing a bed with his mother.
The family were offered a place in a hostel in Liverpool – despite working and going to school in Wigan – and eventually moved into the hotel, where they have been ever since.
Former soldier Paul has been at the hotel since May, after sleeping in his car for three days following a relationship breakup.
He is disabled after a serious car accident, which broke many bones in his lower body, and says he will eventually need a wheelchair.
He said: “I wanted a two-bedroom house for me and my daughter, so that if anything happens in the future I can live downstairs.”
Paul claims he was told his daughter ‘doesn’t exist’ so the council doesn’t have to provide her with property – but he says that’s because amicable arrangements were made with her mother.
He said: “They offered me a two-bedroom apartment upstairs, knowing that I’m a disabled man, knowing that I have trouble with stairs, I can’t get into a bathtub and I need a shower room I went to see six weeks ago and there was no shower room.
“Occupational therapy must have come in with a huge file and letters from my doctors. They’re going to change it, but it may take up to 16 weeks for them to look at it first. Apparently they can add a stairlift if needed too.
“I’ve bid on two bedroom houses that say specifically for someone who needs accommodations but rather than giving me one – because they say as I don’t get Child Benefit , I can’t have a house – they prefer to make adaptations to this apartment.
He added: “I can’t afford a private rental – the costs are disgusting, especially with the energy bills also rising. I could have been in a house now but instead I wait and I’m waiting. I feel like I’ve let my daughter down.
Jo Willmott, director of homes and communities at Wigan Council, said more people were seeking help after being evicted and the authority was doing what it could to help.
She said: “There is a national shortage of social housing and a growing demand for affordable housing, with increasing numbers of people being evicted from their private homes across the country. Shelter, the housing charity, has described evictions from private accommodation rising by 39% in just three months and it is the main reason people seek help from the homeless team. Wigan Council shelter.
“In Wigan, we are doing all we can to support those at risk of homelessness and to increase the availability of high quality affordable housing for locals.
“Since 2010, Wigan Council has built around 600 new homes. We have an ongoing delivery program and currently have four programs in place that will deliver an additional 182 homes by March, including two new additional care programs for elderly residents requiring assistance.
“Another program currently in place will deliver 40 homes in 2024 and we aim to launch three more programs later in the year which will deliver an additional 85 homes by 2024. We have the ambition to accelerate our delivery program during over the next three years to meet growing demand and our climate change commitments by delivering high quality, energy efficient and affordable homes.
“In addition, we have also acquired additional properties to increase the availability of social housing and have also created a housing standards team to help private tenants who are having problems with their landlords.