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Back from the brink

Back from the brink - a blog post from Debbie, a Tenancy Service Officer

Sometimes, it’s only at moments of extreme crisis that people seek help. This was certainly the case for a customer, who we’ll call John, I’ve been visiting recently. John had been in the RAF for 12 years and travelled the world before returning to Salisbury to live with his mother until she passed away. Having taken on her tenancy, he was evicted due to rent arrears and had lived on the streets for years before becoming one of our customers. John had fallen behind on his rent recently.

I’d been trying to engage with John through visiting and sending letters, alongside the income team. Unfortunately, we’d reached the point where he was due to be evicted.

On arriving with a bailiff, we removed the lock and the bailiff spoke to John whilst I rang Wiltshire veterans to see if they could offer any support. In a moment of desperation, John had grabbed a knife and attempted to stab himself, whilst threatening to take his own life. The bailiff had managed to take the knife from him, and we called an ambulance.

The paramedics took John to the hospital, and it transpired that he hadn’t been taking medication and had suffered a number of strokes over the past few months. Whilst he was away, we also discovered that he hadn’t had any gas or electricity for three months. The bailiff and I arranged for an emergency stay hearing, and this allowed us time to look further into how we could support John to maintain his tenancy.

It also turned out that John had been having trouble claiming Universal Credit (UC), as he had no internet and the worry about completing his journal was causing panic attacks if he left the flat.

Time to get John back on track! Starting with the UC team, I arranged for John to be treated as a vulnerable person, meaning he will receive phone calls from his caseworker and won’t need to log on. John had thought his gas had been cut off, but in reality, there was a fault with the boiler, and we’ve now had this fixed. The local Community Mental Health Team (CMHT) has seen John, and a doctor will visit him soon too. In the meantime, they’ve provided a sick note for him. There was no food in the house, so the local food bank has taken food to him too. We’ve applied for a Longleigh grant for a fridge, and we’ve sent food vouchers for him to use.

Finally, I’ve contacted SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity who are visiting and will work with John to clear his arrears.

I’d like to say that everything is resolved, but as anyone involved with these sorts of cases will know, it’s never that simple. John still feels as if he has nothing to live for, and is isolated and lonely. He’s agreed to allow a support worker to visit him, and combined with the steps we were able to take, I’m hoping he’ll make progress.