Disablism in the building… #disability #illness

This past Spring I thought I had found the Holy Grail after securing the only flat I was allowed to see by the only real estate agent that would help someone in my desperate situation without playing games or being hostile. Time has proven to me that my current home is a bit of a mixed blessing. I am truly grateful for the roof over my head, and such a decent one at that. But I am disheartened by hostility towards disabled people here.

I was forced out of my grossly-overpriced former home by a unfathomably greedy and unsympathetic wealthy landlord. Needless to say, becoming homeless for a second time was a scenario  I was eager to avoid. The Homeless Unit and Housing Department of my local Council were completely useless to the point of being astonishingly inept. They were also entirely unsympathetic about my needs as a single disabled woman with complex physical & mental health concerns  living in relative social isolation  That saga will be detailed in a future post.

Back to the topic at hand, I met a few of the neighbours moving in the day before the Royal Wedding – and filled with hope because they “seemed” so nice and friendly and the building itself is in a “nice” area. The day of the wedding itself the entire apartment block was outside celebrating with the other neighbours in our little riverside cul-de-sac. I could barely move and slept most of the day on my bare bed. I just didn’t have the strength to do anything, including going to the bathroom.

It was just as well that no one came knocking to try to encourage me to socialise.

A few days later, after I had regained a bit of energy and finally managed to make up my bed,  I checked the utility cupboards in our lobby and was pleasantly suprised to see a motability scooter there charging up.  I made a mental note to try and found out who it belonged to so that I could introduce myself. I was feeling comforted in the knowledge that there was another Crip in the building, my envy of their scooter aside.

Some time onwards, I happened to look out of a window and saw a woman motoring along in the scooter that I had seen in the cupboard. Her head was heavily bandaged and she looked like someone should be helping her – laden down with grocery bags as she was. Unfortunately I was in the middle of arguing with the phone company via mobile at the time about not having landline or internet service for just over two months, so wasn’t able to do my spoonie cripwalk of death to meet her.

Once my services were established, I started trying to catch up to the usual nightmares that come with moving house. Of course being a spoonie it means that it’s taken the better of the six months of this first rental contract just for me to try to get things situated. Because my income is so low on the benefits I am temporarily receiving compared the salary I had in The City of London, I was keen to take my utility readings myself and report them in lieu of scandalously high “estimates” I had been receiving. I went to try to get into the utility cupboards again to having switched suppliers and found them unlocked  I nearly fell over from the shock, but when I opened the door I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

There were notes all over the cupboard – and the scooter. Post-It Notes, taped notes on ripped pieces of papers – all hostile and all directed at my fellow Crip. The notes were on the door, the meters, the walls… they were just everywhere. The esteemed denizens of this nice, gated riverside block of mixed private & social  housing (vetted by nominations by the town to the Council!!!) are “fed up” with the “inconvenience” of the scooter charging in the cupboard. It’s an understatement to say that I was, and continue to be, horrified.

This was the start of realising something was not quite right here at Crip Towers.

I tried to get into the cupboards often from that point on to check my usage, but they were always locked. I remarked on it to the landlady, who thought it odd and promised me a set of keys. The keys never materialised for one reason or another over the next few months that I kept asking for them. More frustrating was that the cupboard doors continued to be locked and I was receiving estimates of £100 due for utilities I hadn’t used in this tiny flat in the middle of summer. The landlady apparently stopped by the building one night, took readings and texted them to me…saying she’d borrowed keys from a neighbour. Of course I lost those because my old mobile died a horrible death before I plowed through brainfog to deal with them.

One day not long ago the meter reader from the utility company turned up, knocking at my door. He was sorry to bother me, he said, but the cupboards were locked and he needed to take readings. He’d never encountered this in the four years he’s been coming here. I had to explain that unlike the privileged owners of flats in the building that I don’t have keys so can’t help him. He was going to have to knock on the doors of nearly 30 flats to find someone to unlock them for him.

I explained what was going on – and was somewhat comforted by the fact that he thought these people were being petty a-holes. He noted my cripstick and commented that at least I was lucky that they leave me alone. It was astonishing, but true. The landlady seems to find the hostility of the neighbours towards the scooter rather amusing; apparently this his gone on for some time. I snarked that these people have no idea who they have in their midst… me with my rabble-rousing for The Broken of Britain and odd nods here and there in the Society Guardian Daily. I wondered what they would think if I wrote about it. My landlady was very encouraging so here you have it. The whole situation was, and still is, disgraceful.

Once again I am facing the spectre of trying to find my a home that is truly a safe haven in every sense.

Society Guardian Daily Mentions