An Unwelcoming Facade

OPEN LETTER TO EXETER: Pushed Out and Punished for Being Poor

By Dawn M. Sanders

I, named above, describe myself as a post-graduate and job seeker. As a newly qualified journalist and after several visits to Exeter last year and this – I am looking for journalism jobs in the area.

From the outset, I was shown many positive attributes to the city, such as: its size – not too big or small; the many promising opportunities for my adult son to further work experience and provision for his special needs – not to mention better job prospects for myself.

So, with many pressing personal pressures, I arrived in Exeter to live on 13th August.

On a fixed income and in receipt of housing benefits, I immediately went to the housing office for help. However, upon presenting a letter of support for myself to be in a more manageable, less big sprawling city with a further deteriorating severe visual impairment, the housing office insisted I made myself homeless and refused to recognise my need to relocate or unique set of circumstances.

As I attempted to explain both my son’s and my own situations, the first housing officer, seemingly helpful was replaced with a different housing officer on my second visit to the Civic Centre.

With hatred in her voice, the second officer said, ‘you will not get into any of our temporary accommodations’!

In the meantime, as I had started to attempt the private sector with limited resources and funds, I was consistently met with adds saying: “Would suit young professional or student” or “No DSS.”

Further to this narrow market mentality, when ringing letting agents, I was faced with unfriendly, unimpressed: “You’ll need a guarantor who makes up to…” and so on.

Coupled with my financial constraints, when I resolved to look for starting with renting a room in a house, I was predictably faced with the prejudiced reaction to my visual impairment, despite demonstrations of my independence or previous single mother status.

Being denied the right to relocate and improve an unworkable life in my previous city within public housing and being ‘pushed out for being poor’ on the private front, how can I possibly feel welcome in Exeter?

The government pledge and campaign manifesto to crack down on letting agents simply does not go far enough in preventing those of us on benefits from being treated like lepers or placing impossible obsticles in the path to a home.

While the council is not obliged to rehouse someone they consider not a priority, they are required to provide their decision in writing and offer viable options – neither of which were provided to me.

While I am not in the business of playing victim or milking the system, I will always stand up for what I am entitled to and right to respect.

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©  2016

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