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Fresh start for single mum

Fresh start for single mum

A single mum of two is rebuilding her life in Bacup thanks to Together Housing Group after moving back to the UK from New Zealand following a relationship breakdown.

The teaching assistant, who does not want to be named, grew up in Oldham but moved to Stacksteads in Rossendale when her children were younger. She emigrated to New Zealand when the children’s dad had an offer of work but returned to the UK when the couple split up. 

She said: “Returning was hard as I have no family - I was fostered when I was younger. We had no house, no transport, only a few bags when we landed.

“A good friend of mine took us in at her three-bedroom home, which she shares with her two kids. They were all amazing, despite it being very cramped and difficult. My son, 9, slept on a mattress in her 11-year-old son’s room and myself and my daughter, 7, shared a single mattress in my friend’s room while my friend’s 13-year-old daughter slept in the box room.

“When we landed, we only had a few days until my children were due back in school. I had managed to secure their places back in their old primary and it was the only thing that kept them going. They had begged me to ensure they didn’t have to move home or school again. So we travelled via tram and bus twice a day from Oldham to Stacksteads. These were long days and hard.

“I used to spend the days while they were in school at the job centre in Rawtenstall to pass the time and look for work. I wasn’t entitled to any government financial or housing help at the time as I had to wait for them to agree that I was habitually a resident.

“Things were still difficult as my childcare, school and everything the kids were involved in such as friends, swimming and dancing were all in Bacup so we would get up early and drive each day from Oldham so they could get to school and I could get to work in Burnley.

“They were tired and so was I but they didn’t want to be anywhere else and had settled in school well. The familiarity of Bacup and the people they knew was what held it together for all of us. I was struggling to find local accommodation and as I work through an agency without a permanent contract, I didn’t have the required history to pass a credit check so securing a suitable private rental property was impossible.

“After over three months of sleeping on mattresses at my friend’s, it was too much and was becoming a strain for her and her children. Something had to give and so we found ourselves in temporary accommodation.

“Moving into the temporary accommodation was really scary. When I first saw it, I didn’t take the kids and it was a real mess, which was upsetting. It all happened really quickly, within 24 hours, which upset the children because they felt like they had no chance to get used to the idea or have a say. Any move or change has a massive impact on them.

“Although the property wasn’t in Bacup, it was much closer. It was nice to have our own space, not feel like we were putting on anyone and the reduction in travel definitely made our lives easier. We were more than grateful for the housing.

“It was difficult in other ways though. I never wanted to tell anyone where we were living. I felt ashamed at the situation, like I had let the kids down, or that people would think bad of me. The children never settled there, I think because the things in there weren’t ours and had remnants of previous occupants like cigarette burns on things.

“They never felt safe. They would always sleep with me and wouldn’t go into other rooms if no-one else was in there without me going first and putting the lights on. They couldn’t play out, there were no children nearby, nor anyone they knew and it wasn’t suitable for me to invite anyone around. It saddened me that they never wanted to be there and we would spend most of our time visiting others to get out.”

After more than three months of crashing at her friend’s house and four months in temporary accommodation, the mum found out about a property with Together Housing Group that was close to her work, her children’s school and her child minder.

“My new home with Together Housing is amazing. We can’t wait to come home, all of us. On the day we got the keys, the children on the street know my children and they all ran off playing. I realised I already knew a couple of the neighbours and we just felt safe and that we fitted in straight away.

“It’s just fantastic that we can decorate and make the home our own. For the first time, the children can do simple things like pick colours for their rooms and hang pictures. They love it and it’s things like that that have made all the difference to them settling. We’ve only been here four weeks but feels like we’ve been here forever.

“The stress and worry of having no home has just been lifted. I’ll never forget my little girl saying that she had been crying in the toilets at school because all her friends were talking about having tea at each other’s houses and she didn’t want to tell them that she had no home. It’s just a huge relief that we can put it all behind us and move forward. It’s just so good to say we are going home.

“Honestly, I’m not sure what I would have done if it wasn’t for Together Housing. It would have come to either me having to give up my job or moving the kids’ school, which was just not an option. I couldn’t do that to them after they’d been through so much and worked so hard. 

“It is so nice that we can get to friends, school, work, everything and know if we’re ever stuck we have support nearby. It’s thanks to Together Housing that we were able to move to our particular property, which is what has made the difference. The speediness of the works that were carried out to get us into this property was just above and beyond and every person that I dealt with made me feel like a person not just a number.

“It’s quite a semi-rural area, close knit community where you always know someone. Everything is nearby and not busy. After everything we’ve been through, I don’t cope well in busy places.

“If I’ve learnt anything from this experience it’s that home is not just bricks and mortar, it’s where you feel safe and where you feel you belong.”

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