Mind the Supported Housing #9

It’s been a fun ride, but this will be the last entry within this section, because I am now finally no longer in supported housing, although I am still technically getting help from my support worker for 4-6 weeks after which I’ll move onto another supportive organisation for up to 2 years.

My current support worker is a lovely woman who does a fab job at making sure I’ve got things in check. I ran into issues with my flatmate who was, once again, messy and discourteous, but she, like everyone before her, is a thing of the past.

All hell broke loose when I suddenly got a call early on the 17th (my lucky number, as it so happens!) from a local Social Housing Provider who told me a place was available: a 1-bedroom flat in a town mostly unfamiliar to me. I was excited, having eagerly and anxiously awaited this moment for almost 2 years—my time finally arrived.

Although things haven’t been a cakewalk, they’ve gone surprisingly well, all things considered. My father has been fantastic in helping me get the carpets down and furniture moved; not sure what I would’ve done without him! My support worker was of course essential, but mostly on the paperwork side.

For anyone who has been reading these entries, I really am grateful that someone has taken the time to follow me on this journey. It’s been fun, arduous, and educational, but now is the time to move onto the next chapter!

If you would like to follow me into independent living, to see me crumble or succeed, then stay tuned and see what comes up!

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Mind the Supported Housing #8

I am so sick of supported housing. I’m no longer being all that “supported” and I feel as though I’m being treated like a non-person.

My support worker is becoming almost entirely useless and it’s really pissing me off. Two weeks ago she missed an appointment for our support session that we had previously made.

Via text, we rescheduled for Tuesday, last week, and she was a no-show for that too! I text my support worker a couple of times and got absolutely nothing back from her until just now.

My current and previous support worker came through into the house, opening the front door with a key, without bothering to wait for me to get dressed and open the door—I was sleeping, as it was 10am and I went to sleep at 4am—with a potential new flatmate, who just so happens to be a female; I didn’t even think that was allowed.

I looked at my phone once they left and noticed that my support worker did text me this morning, a little before they had come around. She knows full well that my sleep isn’t fantastic and that I would be asleep at that time, so the very text telling me she was coming over at 10:30am today was utterly pointless.

You don’t spring this crap on a normal person, let alone someone with mental health issues; it’s just out of order. They should all know better. I’m so fed up of being treated like how I feel is redundant. I wouldn’t treat someone normal like this, let alone in a professional setting!

The text I got from my support worker this morning started with an apology followed by an excuse. The woman said the reason for her absence was because she has been off and has “only just come back in.” She couldn’t tell me this beforehand? Or at the very least have someone else keep me informed.

She continued the text by berating herself, saying, “Useless person!” Yeah, because that’s professional, and totally makes up for everything. Am I supposed to feel sorry for her?

On the bright side, she also mentioned seeing the council to discuss my nomination in order to get the merry hell out of here; I guess that’s something.

I particularly like the “thanks” at the end of the text, which really just rubs it in. What, you’re welcome for treating me like a moron? Cheers! Spot on. What-ho. Tralala.

Since I didn’t want to make a bad impression with the potential new flatmate, I couldn’t really have a go at my support worker there and then. I sent her a text when they left, once I got hers. I told her the score, ending with, “I might be disabled, but I’m a person with thoughts and feelings just like you.”

I’m not happy, but with any luck, I will be out of here soon and able to wash my hands of these people. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for the assist in a difficult time in my life, but that doesn’t mean I should accept being treated this way.

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Mind the Supported Housing #7

I finally saw my support worker today; first time since a little before Christmas. I made it super clear that I wanted out of this supported housing malarky; it’s great ‘n’ all, but I’m just done now! I want to get this show on the road—I’m ready to go forward.

The woman broke protocol and did a health and safety check on her own. Ordinarily, there should be 2 people for safety reasons. I suppose they finally realise I’m not a nut-job and that she’s perfectly safe. Even so, protocol is set in place for a reason. I may not be a psychopath, but what about the next guy?

I told my support worker about my recent romantic interest and asked her for some information regarding the law with someone coming in from abroad and visiting as well as later living here with me; she took a note of that and said she’d chase that information up for me. She thought it was sweet and seemed quite optimistic, even mentioning us getting married one day in the not-too-distant future; I was quite surprised at that! Everyone seems so unrealistically optimistic.

I let my support worker know that lately my mood has been declining at night, despite waking up and being quite chipper. She asked if it’s perhaps because I’m not as busy at night, but I said I’m more busy at night.

Conversely, I talk to RB (what I’ll call my romantic interest, as it were) at night, so maybe I’m not keeping all that busy. I guess that leaves my mind open to think crap; could be an issue? Perhaps I need to be more mindful of my needing space to keep my mind busy and distracted.

I’ve got some paperwork regarding the two Mind courses I’ll be attending soon. I’m nervous but excited. One is for coping with strong emotions, and the other is for coping with anxiety; could be interesting. Might be a chance to meet some people and perhaps make a friend or two.

My support worker told me she’s trying to sort out an interview with someone to ascertain what kind of place would be suitable for me, then I’ll simply need to wait for a place to come up! After that, things get hectic for a while. Things may well be finally moving ahead into the great unknown.

I’m feeling stronger and more confident, despite the wobbly moments I’ve been having, which, if I’m honest, are mostly regarding RB and us. Although we’re not openly declaring that we’re in a relationship, there are plenty of aspects to it that fit such a label to an absolute T, and as such, it can be stressful.

A friend I haven’t seen in person for a long time would like to meet up in my town and hang out, so that could be fun. We get along well, but communication can be difficult at times, so patience and understanding is worthwhile; he’s very aware of this, which makes it easier.

I’m starting to feel good, for however long that’ll last.

Last night was difficult. I was pissed off, stressed, and depressed, but I went on my exercise bike for 30 minutes and it pretty much all went away. The bath thereafter was very nice and the evening spent chatting to RB was lovely, despite the several interruptions.

I just hope I get out of Mind’s embrace soon, so I can start my life as an even more independent man. Watch out world! I’m coming for you.

Part 8 can be found via this link!

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Mind the Supported Housing #6

I thought I was done with this crap, but apparently Mind insist on making things difficult. A few days ago, I was called up by my support worker and told that someone would be staying with me for a couple of weeks, as per an emergency with his flat being flooded; it sucks, but fair enough.

The guy comes over, the sort that makes you think “one of those guys”, with his try-hard outfit you’d expect from a skaterboi. I persevered, especially when my support worker told my dad and me that he was only to stay for one day, after which he’s staying with his grandparents or something.

The guy left the next morning, and that was the end of that; I was relieved. I’ve been getting used to living alone and enjoying the benefits, particularly not having to worry about some other guy’s mess, and the privacy is a huge bonus.

I get woken up at approximately ten in the morning by my support worker relentlessly knocking on my front door. I sleepily get dressed, having had less than six hours sleep because I struggle at night and have been staying up late for reasons probably mentioned elsewhere. She is fully aware that I struggle in this way.

My support worker was just “passing by” and thought to quickly ask me whether the new guy left OK, whether things were alright, and that’s all I really remember because I was half asleep, anxious, and irritated for being woken up by loud banging noises echoing through the flat.

I’m having a nice late-night conversation with woman over Skype, when, midnight, someone opens the front door and the other bedroom door with the keys. I didn’t know for sure who it was; for all I knew, it could’ve been someone who got a hold of the keys and was trying to swipe stuff.

I was immediately anxious, got dressed, and went through to see who it was. Although I never saw the person, I could smell the cigarette smoke and figured it was probably just the same guy, and that my support worker screwed up again—ding, ding, ding!

I told my dad the next morning; he was worried and called a nearby Mind office. I texted my support worker, and later got a call from another woman, also a support worker, who apologised and explained that it isn’t what they would “usually do” but given the circumstance, it’s only going to be temporary.

I thought, OK, so the guy has, up until now, been clean and relatively quiet, despite waking me up twice at quarter-to-seven in the morning, which, for me, is insanely early.

He left the hall light and kitchen light on for hours last night. I left the lights be thinking he was maybe in the kitchen, but later on I went through and he wasn’t there. I turned the lights off—he must’ve fallen asleep.

In the kitchen? Crumbs over the cooker top, a dirty, empty tin on the worktop by the bin, as opposed to simply in the sodding bin, and a used bowl and glass left in the sink. Am I meant to clean up his mess? Disrespectful. He has to clean up after himself just as I do—I’m not his daddy.

I sent my support worker a text earlier, ‘though I expect it’ll go largely unnoticed: “he left mess last night, then buggered off out this morning,” then I explained what he left behind, and continued, “am I to clean up after him?” No reply yet, but we’ll see.

I’m sick of supported housing, I’m sick of flatmates, and I sincerely miss having an actual home. I’m getting heart-palpitations just typing this out.

Part 7 can be found via this link!

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Mind the Supported Housing #5

I’ve just had a health and safety (H&S) check.

Firstly, at least here, two support workers need to be present for a H&S check, although I’m not sure why. Initially, I thought it was because of their own safety, but now I’m not sure as I’ve had many support sessions over here with just my support worker alone.

The requirement of two support workers means that there’s a chance H&S checks will be postponed until two workers are free for the check. Although nothing major, it’s worth noting that this can result in us been given the run-around, which can be incredibly frustrating.

A day or two prior to the H&S check, each tenant receives a letter through the post informing them of the upcoming check. Sometimes the letter comes with a small list of things for which they will be looking, such as hoovered floors, cleaned appliances, and emptied bins.

All rooms are checked, but it’s a very quick look, especially where the bedrooms are concerned. I used to worry that the workers would rifle through my stuff, but nope, not so.

The electric and gas meters are noted down, no doubt to ensure we’re not doing something elaborate which costs them a fortune. They may ask us to get the meter values ourselves, ready to hand to them when they come for the check.

The workers do have spare keys to access your property and the bedrooms, but they claim that they prefer the tenant(s) to be present to let them in and answer any questions, such as if everything is working as it should.

It is a scary idea that someone has keys to your private belongings other than yourself, but it is typically for emergencies. Although it’s common that a landlord will have a spare set of keys for emergencies and I presume legal reasons, it can be a scary concept for someone with mental health problems.

The checks usually take place between midday and five o’clock in the afternoon. The times at which they will perform the check seem to be only on their terms, which can be quite an issue with those who struggle with sleep, as I do.

The support workers I’ve been involved with have been, for the most part, friendly, understanding, and patient, as I believe they should be, especially when dealing with people who can be potentially very unwell.

The check is meant to take place every month, but I have known them to be skipped or greatly postponed, but that has only happened at the place I’m at now.

As far as I know, the office, and the houses or flats under which it supports and maintains, is for those who’re more independent and generally doing well, so perhaps that has something to do with their apparent lack of concern in contrast to the previous place.

All in all, the H&S checks are not too invasive, and they, at least for me, have been taken respectfully and to ensure that we and the household are OK. Obviously maintaining a household is an important part of independent living, so it’s good that they ensure we are on top of that, and if we’re not, they would offer us help.

Part 6 can be found via this link!

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Mind the Supported Housing #4

I had hoped to get part 4 done sooner, but I ended up staying over at a friend’s house. I got back a few hours ago and have been chillaxing, but now I’ve got some epic dubstep tunes thumping through my ear-holes, so allow me to bore your brain with my experience drill—too much?

Side note: cats are incredible healers. Dogs too, I should imagine. The aforementioned friend has a gorgeous kitten; he’s often stuck in play mode, swatting your face and chewing on your flesh, but when he’s not? He’s this super-sappy, adorable little beast of insane fluffiness.

I’ll get back on topic.

Something that has started to get to me probably was inevitable: I’m starting to wish I could just be moved on already. Supported housing has been mentally, emotionally, and even physically challenging and draining, but now I feel it’s coming to a close; I can sense the end.

There’s a looming interview of sorts with a woman who’ll decide my fate, at least I think that’s the purpose of the assessment. The woman will ask whether I pay my bills and keep the house tidy—easy.

Do I pay my bills? You bet. Direct debit kicks bum and I’ll continue to direct all my debits right to whomever needs dat cheddar, yo!

I’m so tired.

Keeping the place tidy isn’t too difficult. I’m a fairly house-proud sort of guy, but that doesn’t mean to say I’ve always got a feather duster in one hand and a hand-held vacuum in the other—I’m all about the hoover.

I do the housework once a week, typically on Wednesdays, which is a day my last flatmate got me into; sadly, he’s pretty much moved out, now. I take out and empty the bins, clean the kitchen worktops, clean the toilet, the bath, and so the very ordinary list goes on. I’m going to make for a wonderful housewife some day! I should probably stop making that joke; political correctness ‘n’ all.

It was nice having a friend around, or at least he felt like a friend, but I honestly think he gives less monkeys than I initially suspected, so I’m not quite sure what to think about that—I’m possibly just over-thinking and he’s merely busy dealing with the move; fair assessment?

Seeing how much my last flatmate is struggling to get himself settled in his new place, I’m left wondering how much I’m going to struggle. My dad’s back is far from what it used to be and I have no clue how to fit carpets; that’s just one potential problem.

I’m not sure how much I’m going to end up spending getting everything together and buying the white goods, but all I can say for sure is that I’m so pleased I started obsessively saving some years ago!

I don’t and probably shouldn’t drive, so that’s a problem, but luckily my dad does, so he’ll gladly help me move stuff as he has done twice already. I feel bad, at the age of 29, to be asking my dad to help me move furniture yet again.

Maybe it’s normal to need so much help at a time like this, and perhaps it’s expected of a man in my situation, but I’m trying to be independent! I’d rather not lean on my dad so much; he’s already done so much for me over the years.

Part 5 can be found via this link!

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Mind the Supported Housing #3

I believe I’ve mentioned that a “service user” will typically see their assigned support worker once a week as per their tenancy agreement and in the interest of support. If you’ve missed out on the previous entry, check out this link. With that in mind, I saw my support worker just now, and it was a positive experience, so I thought, since I’ve been quite negative, I’d share a positive experience.

I get anxious when I’m waiting for someone or something, so although she was late, as they sadly often seem to be—busy, I presume—she’s the sort of person to want to get stuff done; to get it out of the way as soon as possible. The down side is that she might miss the small things because she’s too eager to get the show on the road, or perhaps she’s just confident that I’m kosher.

My previous support worker, a friendly but arguably negative woman (a stark contrast to my current, optimistic support worker) was nice to speak to but there were problems, those of which my step mother (a well-experienced carer for the mentally and physically disabled) and father felt were clear, but I suppose it’s possible that my sometimes being “too nice” clouded over my ability to realise that, in some ways, she wasn’t helping me.

I didn’t like how my previous support worker handled the situation with my previous flatmate and I; she thought it a good idea to keep sitting us down in the same room like a pair of school kids who had an argument on the playground, but was oblivious (or at least acted so) to the guy’s rather blatant deception, and left me feeling stressed, particularly when we went behind closed doors. I do understand her logic behind  some of her actions, but I ultimately disagree. Sadly, I don’t believe I have a better way in mind, and I’m sure there are times when it does work.

Unfortunately, life isn’t perfect and sometimes there’s just no ultimate solution. There are only so many houses. There are many who are and were far worse off than I, who needed housing very quickly, which I suppose is why it took so long to get me this place.

Yesterday, I received a letter through the mail about my TV license which explained that this property is no longer licensed and watching “live TV” is now not legal. I immediately called up my support worker and explained the situation.

Although my support worker almost had me paying a 2nd TV license costing me just over £145 every 10 months, and failed to get back to me last night when she said she would, leaving me worried, she still managed to get it sorted; it turns out it was a screw-up on Mind’s end.

I requested a current break down of the service charge and rent. The service charge does in-fact cover the non-communal gas and electric, water, personal cleaning, TV license, and the management of ineligible services.

There are some aspects of the break down with which I’m not familiar, such as the non-communal gas and electric; how exactly does one go about separating communal from non-communal, and how does that make sense when the gas and electric are both communal, yet I’m still paying for it?

I’m not entirely sure to what “personal cleaning” pertains, since I do all of my cleaning, but I have noticed that they insist on mowing the garden lawn (at least at the previous place—no garden here) and they’ll occasionally deal with oversized bushes and various similar, outside things.

Lastly, I haven’t a clue about this “management of ineligible services” thing, and it irks me that I’m being charged for things that weren’t explained to me, unless they were but I was too anxious to absorb the information when I first moved into supported housing.

Since she had no luck tracking down a local support group for OCD or anxiety, I’ve requested my support worker look into and inform me about Mind’s courses that are locally available. There are various courses for things like dealing with anxiety, coping with emotions, and being assertive; the former interests me, since, as you know, I have anxiety problems.

Hopefully the course(s) will help to get me out of the house more and allow me to be more social! As it stands, I don’t have many reasons to go out, and when I do, it’s often met with a fair bit of anxiety.

Part 4 can be found via this link!

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Mind the Supported Housing #2

One of the hardest things about living in this sort of Mind supported housing, at least for me, is living in shared accommodation. If you already have mental health issues that can have a social impact, living in such a place with someone else who also has similar issues may well be a considerable issue!

See my old rant, Living with an Audacious Idiot, if you’re curious as to how frustrating and problematic it can get living with someone with mental health issues. Do note that I’m not saying absolutely everyone with mental health issues is a nightmare to live with!

Living in shared accommodation presents issues whether you have mental health problems or not, I understand that, but when you live with someone potentially unstable, as I have done, it becomes pretty intense, especially if they are driving you so crazy (being rude, disrespectful, argumentative, deceptive, and so on) that you end up losing your temper with them.

Each tenant has a support worker assigned to them, whom they may have to see once a week, which is actually a requirement of the tenancy agreement. Unfortunately, there are plenty of times I haven’t had such a “support session” because a support worker (I’ve now had two assigned to me) hasn’t been available.

I’ve been texted, E-Mailed, and called to tell me that a support worker is stuck in traffic, working elsewhere, or for whatever other reason cannot make it. I’m not sure where this leaves me with regards to the tenancy agreement, but I’ve so far not been booted, so that’s a plus.

Due to the severity of the mental health or other issues (such as drug misuse and alcoholism) that some people in these places may have, the support workers do potentially have a lot on their plate, and there are risks. Thankfully, I’m not one of those people.

The down side of living with someone potentially unstable (the possibly aggressive, abusive sort of people) is that I may have to live with such a person, which can be disconcerting, potentially risky, and counter-productive with regards to the support of one’s mental health and general living.

I’ve heard plenty of scary stories of unstable, unpredictable people who have lived in these places, and attending the interview (mentioned at the beginning of the first post, Mind the Supported Housing) was a considerable and interesting insight.

Due to my experiences and the stories I’ve heard, I’m clear in my opinion that people with socially-challenging kinds of mental health issues should not be packed together in a supportive environment, due to the potential risks involved. If it must happen, I believe there needs to be a new system set in place to ensure nothing malicious or unfair is going on, with regards to the tenants.

As someone with social anxiety and OCD, I struggled to speak up and be clear about the problems I had with my previous flatmate; he was manipulative and frequently tried to intimidate me, but my OCD kept me thinking what if this and what if that, so I couldn’t have a clear thought that, yes, he was in fact being problematic. My uncertainty apparently made it very difficult for the support worker(s) to take the appropriate action.

In the end, despite countless warnings and calm explanations, it actually took me considerably losing my temper with my previous flatmate, the police involved, myself and my parents insisting something be done, and my having to sleep on floors for a month or so before the support workers decided to take action and move me elsewhere; they actually tried to get me to go back and live with the “audacious idiot” after what happened! Had I less control, it could’ve well taken a bleaker turn. Not a good system at all—I was and still am appalled.

Part 3 can be found via this link!

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Mind the Supported Housing #1

I have lived in two different Mind locations that come under “supported housing”, each with their own office and a different team of support workers. I’m currently still living in such a place, waiting to be moved on to a place of my own so I can stand on my own two feet.

I’ve also attended an interview with two potential support workers, both of whom I asked a few questions to see if they would be a good candidate, from the perspective of such a person they’d potentially support.

Simply put, it’s housing in which one lives and receives support; this does not have to mean that someone is there to wipe your bum, buy your shopping, and feed you blended mush through a straw. There are different types of supported housing.

I’m in supported housing for “vulnerable adults” with mental health problems or those who struggle with addiction such as alcoholism or the misuse of drugs. These places help people become independent, potentially help them acquire a place of their own, while supporting them through their issues, but it doesn’t replace the job of someone like a psychologist or psychiatrist. The housing is temporary—up to 2 years, typically, with an absolute maximum of 3 years. Where do I fit in to all this?

I’m in supported housing because I needed help to become independent and to find and move into a place of my own. I am, as much as I hate to admit it, to some extent, a “vulnerable adult.” I never really thought of myself classed in such an ugly, demeaning way, but apparently that’s where I stand, if only partly.

Before going into supported housing, I was stuck, living with my dad and step mother, and we were getting in each other’s way. My problems made things more difficult for all involved. Besides, I was 28, dying to spread my wings, so it was time to move on.

When it comes to living independently, where I struggle the most is with bills. In particular, I have anxiety problems and OCD, both of which get in the way of things like going out, being social, dealing with issues related to bills, making phone calls, and so on. Living here not only directly helps me with that, but it also teaches me how to deal with these things in the future.

Living in supported housing isn’t always as great as it sounds; there are downsides. Do note that there are better and worse places.

Unless you’re lucky or have very specific circumstances that grant you a solo mission, you will typically be shoved into shared accommodation. In my case, I have been put into places with just one other person, but there are other places in which many people can end up packed together.

You and your flatmate(s) each have a bedroom of your own, the doors to which have a lock. You will each pay a set bill that they call a “service charge” which is usually very inexpensive, as I believe this place is primarily aimed at those who don’t or can’t work, such as myself. If you’re lucky enough to live on your own, you have a lot more to pay, unfortunately. Each tenant should help to maintain the property, as per the usual.

The service charge includes the TV license, water, gas, and electric. For me, rent is covered by benefits. I pay less than £20 per week for such things, which is tremendously cheap and lucky. When I do finally get into a place of my own, my bank account is going to have quite a shock!

Part 2 can be found via this link!

A thank you to the Facebook page Mental Health and Invisible Illness Resources for sharing this blog entry.

Many thanks to the Facebook page Anxiety & Panic Disorders for sharing this blog entry.

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