I have a place I can call home and can live the life I want
What does it feel like to move from supported living into your own home? What are the things we take for granted like buying a lawnmower? Read about one person's experience who is living out the Making it Real I statement - I have a place I can call home and can live the life I want.
It was the morning of August 11th. Sam’s life was about to change, at last. For years, he’d been trying to live the life he wanted but kept coming up against barriers. In his supported living accommodation, he’d expected respect and decency but received little. He was locked out at night, more than once; his post went missing; he couldn’t have parcels delivered; he didn’t have control of doing his own laundry; he couldn’t see his electricity and water meters which were locked in cupboards; rats ran around the overflowing bins; and so much more that wasn’t right for him.
Sam tried hard to change things, offering constructive ideas, talking about co-production and asking the staff to work with him and the other people whose home it was. They couldn’t choose the staff who supported them. They couldn’t go out for a walk or even sit outside on their own. It was ‘You can’t do this and you can’t do that.’ As things worsened, the mood changed for everyone who lived there. There was no escape.
Sam is passionate about nature and the environment. He enjoys watching birds and local wildlife and is keen on recycling. But he couldn’t do any of this. He couldn’t grow vegetables or plant flowers. Life wasn’t good enough.
Luckily, Sam had good friends who helped him find a new home to rent. It wasn’t easy because many private landlords won’t rent to people on housing benefits, but Sam found an understanding landlord. He’s chosen to employ his own personal assistants, so his support is separate from his accommodation, giving him the choice and control he so wanted.
One of the first things Sam did when he moved to his new home was buy a second-hand lawnmower. He loved the look and smell of the freshly mowed lawn and was so proud and happy that he could do it for himself. He’s taken control of his household bills and is learning how to manage his budget. He can do his washing when he wants. He can go for a walk round the block and he’s already getting to know his neighbours.
Throughout the discrimination and sadness of not having the right support, Sam remained strong. It’s been an emotional time, but his tears were tears of joy when he moved into his own perfect HOME.
Caroline Waugh interviewed fellow National Coproduction Advisory Group member Sam Willacy for this article.