The Great Homelessness Adventure: Episode 1

Featured image: blue and green tents in front of woodland. Photo by PinkBlue

I’ve been ill. I had a full-on breakdown last Summer, which came back to bite me in February. Having had a bunch of tests that found nothing more sinister than a vitamin deficiency (for which I’m being treated), we’re now looking at a collection of long-term fatigue type illnesses. Top runners at the moment are fibromyalgia, hypermobility disorder, and chronic fatigue syndrome.

While I’m still receiving statutory sick pay from my employer, and my lovely partner Caffeinated Otter is working as many hours as he can get on top of his 12-hour contract, we’ve hit the end of our overdraft and can no longer afford the rent and bills. We’ve applied for assistance from the council but they benefit financially from turning down and/or making mistakes with claims (no, seriously, the lovely lady on the desk who has been our front-office contact for all of this told us how it works). Even if our claim is approved (after multiple attempts, I might add), we will be unable to pay the rent before we’ve got into rent arrears.

We had initially looked at moving to somewhere cheaper, but there are barriers to that:

  • Agent fees – we just can’t spare £200 of fees
  • Housing benefit – most landlords will not accept it, believing that being on housing benefit will make us more likely to miss payments and cause damage to the house that we will be unable to pay for.
  • Damage deposits – generally 1 month’s rent plus £100
  • Most places within our budget being single occupancy rooms, i.e. “no couples”
  • Many places within our budget also being rooms in shared houses. Living with people I don’t know and sharing kitchen and bathroom facilities with total strangers in a confined space is most certainly not good for either of us.

So we have just one option left if we don’t want to wait for a messy eviction and end up with even more barriers to renting due to a County Court Judgement. “Voluntary” homelessness until such time as we can scrape the money together to resume renting.

Caffeinated Otter will be staying with a family member in their 1-bedroom flat. He’s the priority for stable arrangements, since he is working.

I will be “sofa surfing” when friends can give me a sofa for a couple of nights, and camping (at a cost of £8/night to camp legally) when they can’t.

Luckily, being a prepper and having scraped some kit together over the last few years, I’m reasonably well set up for camping. Hooray for zombie-apocalypse paranoia. I have a tent, airbed, 4 season sleeping bag, solar USB charger, camping stove (an awesome Biolite stove that can charge USB devices off the excess heat generated), and enough experience with the gear to be capable.

Given my fatigue, though, all of this is going to be hard. I have a sack barrow for my heavy gear, but will still need to cover up to 5 miles between sofas. I will need to make a several mile round trip into the city regularly to get affordable food, and to access WiFi in order to keep blogging (and therefore keep earning). I will also need to make regular visits to wherever I store my craft stuff, as I will likely need to craft and sell things to make money for food and camping.

My more geographically distant friends are helping me by purchasing items from my survival wishlist in order to help me make my time outdoors more comfortable.

I’m now in the process of boxing up everything I will not need in the near future, and attempting to sell items that I can replace if and when I resume settled living. There’s also a lot of filing to do to make sure I have easy access to all my documents that might be needed, for example evidence for applying for free prescriptions, or access to food banks.

There’s a load of admin, too, telling my utility suppliers and home insurance providers when we will be leaving, updating addresses to get my mail sent care-of to a friend’s address. At some point I have to try and notify the gender identity clinic of the change in circumstances so they don’t send my appointment to the wrong address and then take me off the waiting list when I don’t arrive for my interview.

I’m staying positive, though, despite the stress. I’m looking at it as an adventure, an opportunity to let go of the material distractions and reconnect with myself and the world. Framing it as a potential for a spiritual journey is keeping me going for the moment, though I have no doubt my faith in that will be sorely tested before all of this is over.

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