Each family has a story to tell

Fay Young

Family A:

A mother and son

"I am sleeping with my son who is going through puberty and who really should have his own room. There is a lot of disturbance at night from other residents, which also makes sleeping difficult."

Mrs A, aged 48, and her 12-year-old son are living in bed and breakfast accommodation. She is separated from her husband and unable to work since being disabled in an industrial accident. She suffers from depression, high blood pressure and a stomach ulcer and finds it difficult to climb the stairs at the Bamp;B.

Last Christmas she attempted suicide but was saved by her son. She is worried about his health and education.

"My son is well behind at school. There is no room in the Bamp;B for him to study. He can't do homework, I don't know enough to help him with it.

"He has been bullied several times because of where he stays - he has lost a lot of friends - and he has started playing truant from school."

Family B:

A father and son

Mr B became homeless after his marriage broke down and he signed over tenancy of his council house to his wife. He and his 12-year-old son have moved six times in eight years and until recently Mr B was unaware that he was entitled to extra housing points because of his son's asthma.

Mr B is fully employed but works different shifts. He believes things would have been much worse if his son had not been able to stay at the same school while they were homeless: th school allowed his son to arrive early, which meant he could get to work on time.

While they were in bed and breakfast accommodation, the boy's health deteriorated significantly. "He started bedwetting, which he had never done before. Also, his asthma got worse."

Once Mr B was able to present his case clearly to the housing department, he gained enough points to move into a permanent local authority house. "It's very good, ideal for two," he says. "I've landed on my feet."

Family C:

A mother and two daughters

Mrs C and her daughters, aged 11 and five, have moved into a permanent house after three moves in eight months.

The 11-year-old girl describes how unhappy she was while they were staying in bed and breakfast accommodation. She could not tell anyone where she was staying as she was afraid other children at school would find out and make fun of her.

"I was jumpy and scared that we wouldn't get a real house and that dad would find us. I felt sick a lot of the time and I used to cry all the time. I had trouble sleeping and used to have nightmares.

"Mum cried every night. She was ill! Mum was worried because she didn't know about what house she was going to get. This house is the best thing that ever happened to Mum."

These case studies are from "The Impact of Homelessness on Families". The full report is available from SCRE, 15 St John Street, Edinburgh EH8 8JR, tel 0131 557 2944 or on www.scre.ac.uk

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Fay Young

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