4 June 2024

When a family with young children face eviction and homelessness, the consequences can be dire for all involved. But Chloe’s story is proof that even in the bleakest of situations, there can be light at the end of the tunnel with support from local services.

At the age of 31, Chloe Bloomer found herself at the heart of a relentless struggle, juggling the care for her daughter Isla’s type 1 diabetes with securing a stable home for her family after being forced into homelessness. Chloe’s tale highlights a pressing issue: the intersection of homelessness with health inequality, especially for families grappling with chronic health conditions.

Isla, now 4, was diagnosed at just 19 months old and needs constant care—a reality that forced Chloe to leave her career as a carer and become a full-time caregiver to her daughter. This condition demands strict blood sugar monitoring and regular insulin injections, making a stable home environment crucial for Isla’s health and wellbeing.

Navigating the housing system
Chloe’s battle for stability took a turn for the worse due to the poor condition of her privately rented home in Bournemouth. When she raised issues about mould and said the property needed repairs, the response was a Section 21 (no-fault) eviction notice.

This notice was the catalyst for a harrowing journey through the housing system, while the family’s struggle for a safe living space highlighted the shortage of suitable accommodation available for families – a national issue that many private renters are currently facing – especially those with complex medical needs.

As they navigated temporary accommodation, the family repeatedly encountered environments that were inadequate for managing Isla’s diabetes. The lack of stable housing impacted their ability to maintain the rigorous health care regime Isla needs, spotlighting the broader issue of health access inequality for those experiencing homelessness. The family’s struggle underscores a painful reality that health care and housing are intrinsically linked. Yet, for many, accessing both simultaneously is a formidable challenge.

Despite these challenges, Chloe’s commitment to her family never wavered. She tirelessly sought another private rental but faced mounting debts from legal battles with her landlord, compounded by the stigma of homelessness. Attempts to secure a new privately rented home, in the midst of fierce competition, proved to be overwhelming and prevented the family from securing a new, suitable property.

Homelessness Partnership BCP members provide support
Like so many in temporary accommodation, Chloe faced the daily struggle of how to feed her young family in an environment with little or no cooking facilities. Thanks to the efforts of local foodbanks, Chloe was supplied with ingredients that could be cooked using just a microwave or kettle, ensuring that the family didn’t go without meals.

A spokesperson for the Access to Food Partnership said: “Using a food bank voucher, available from Citizens Advice or the BCP Council Crisis Team, Chloe was able to access local food banks that could provide regular food parcels to ensure the family didn’t go hungry. The food banks were able to signpost Chloe to other support services and available food projects such as community fridges that provide free food to those in crisis.”

Citizens Advice BCP provided support, too. In addition to providing access to foodbanks, advisors helped Chloe with the rising cost of living, issuing £200 worth of vouchers from the Household Support Fund (HSF), a government initiative designed to provide short-term support to households that are struggling to afford life’s essentials. While Chloe and her family were living in temporary accommodation, Citizens Advice also supported her to apply for a small cash grant of £50.

New home, brighter future
Amidst her daughter’s health concerns and her own and her partner’s mental health challenges, Chloe’s resolve to fight for her family’s right to a secure home remained unshaken. Her story sheds light on the psychological toll on families, constantly uprooted and battling for their right to health and home.

The family’s story took a turn for the better after Chole successfully secured a three-bedroom privately rented property. This new chapter began following Chloe’s proactive approach and swift action, along with help from the Rent Deposit Scheme – an interest-free loan that helps private tenants to cover the cost of a tenancy deposit or rent in advance (find out more at https://tinyurl.com/3y9ybpy7).

Despite the fears and anxieties that come with private renting—fear of homelessness, financial strain, and potential issues with property disrepair—the family decided to embrace the opportunity, rallied by the promise of a stable environment for their two daughters to grow and thrive.

Chloe says: “We loved the property but we had a lot of anxieties. What if we find ourselves homeless again, because it’s a private let? What if we can’t afford it because it’s a £1,500 a month property? There were so many worries but we decided that the healthiest thing to do was to tell the landlord that we would like to make this house our home.”

The move was not without its challenges. Discovering that much of their stored property had been ruined by mould was a frustrating setback, underscoring the long-lasting impacts of previous unstable living conditions. However, the beauty and suitability of the new property offered a glimmer of hope. For the first time in a long while, both of Chloe’s daughters had their own rooms, a simple yet profound marker of a new beginning.

This transition, though filled with relief and a sense of accomplishment, was also a period of adjustment, especially for four year-old Isla. Her need for constant reassurance about “which home” they were returning to highlights the deep-seated impact of their housing instability on her sense of security and belonging.

The move out of homelessness into their new home was a moment of mixed emotions for Chloe and her family—relief, pride, but also a reflection on a journey that had been fraught with challenges.

Chloe adds: “The last time we left Milton House [temporary accommodation in Bournemouth] was the craziest, overwhelming feeling. I had butterflies in my stomach and a lump in my throat with the realisation that our homeless journey was coming an end. It was a humbling moment. Now, I feel relieved and we’re beginning to feel settled and proud for getting through and securing a private rental again.

“We’ve begun to find structure again: simple things like food shopping, being able to cook fresh meals and enjoy visits from close family and friends have been wonderful. It’s these small things that we take for granted until we find ourselves in a position where we are no longer able to do them. We have visited pre-schools for our youngest daughter to start in September and are awaiting a decision for a local school for Isla to start, too.”

Building the foundations of a new career

Having a stable home armed Chloe with the confidence to turn her career ambitions into reality. She explains: “I found the confidence to start a new career path and have taken courses that allow me to start Indian head massages, Gua Sha facials and hot stone treatments. I have certificates and public liability insurance, so I can begin treatments on clients and start a business to support my family while still having the flexibility to meet the needs of my family.

“I’m so excited for the future. My aim is to become a holistic therapist. I would also like to work within the community to provide support to others in hard times. I know there is a gap for this in hostels and places where families are accommodated. As someone who has lived and seen it first-hand, I feel I would be a brilliant ambassador for this type of support.”

Finally, Chloe has wise words for others who are experiencing homelessness and are struggling to retain hope. She sums-up: “In hard times it’s important to have a voice. I used to feel like I was not being seen or heard. Don’t lose sight on what you want from life, even if it seems out of reach. With the right support you can and will get there.

“I found myself living in one room with my family for almost a year, crying myself to sleep most nights when I knew that they were asleep, because I wanted to stay strong for them. You can feel extremely lonely when you get to this emotional point. I don’t like the thought that there are people out there going through these emotions and I want them to know that when they finally emerge from hardship they will reflect and feel a sense of achievement.”

Households that find themselves in a similar predicament to Chloe and are threatened with homelessness are advised to get in touch with the Homelessness Partnership BCP’s Let’s Talk Renting service. Run by Citizens Advice BCP, the Let’s Talk Renting telephone helpline (01202 985104) is operated by specialist advisors who can support when a private tenancy is at risk – offering free advice on rent arrears, eviction notices, mould, damp and disrepair, as well as budgeting advice.