Homeless women (2): We couldn't pay the mortgage any more

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Aneeta is 35. She lives with her sons, aged 12 and 7. She is now housed by a local authority, but lives with memories of the time she spent in a bed and breakfast hotel.

IF YOU had seen me a couple of months ago, I wouldn't have been able to talk to you. We became homeless when my husband borrowed money to pay for his sister's hospital treatment in the United States. I was out of the country visiting his sister and came back to find he had handed in the keys because he couldn't pay the mortgage. We lost our house and were moved into bed and breakfast.

My husband was put in one place and I was in another with the children. I have no complaints, except the drunks and the women fighting each other. And they should let the husbands in - if they can't give accommodation to husband and wife, they should let him in. At 9 o'clock the doors were closed. We were miles apart, we had problems and wanted to talk things over. He tried to get things sorted out, and then he disappeared. We didn't see him after that.

Bed and breakfast is no place for women and children. It's frightening. It affected the children badly. It was like living in a cage - having to keep quiet, and no space to play. The kitchen was unhygienic and there was no heater in the bathroom and no hot water. It's the women and children who are hit most in this situation. I've seen mothers go out of their minds and take it out on their babies.

I had a lot of support from the housing people at the council but otherwise I had no one to talk to. I couldn't talk to any Indian people. It was too embarrassing. People would have asked where was my husband - I didn't know where he was. I'm a member of the Sikh community and I would rather go to some other community for help where I wouldn't be gossiped about. For four months I stayed within four walls. I was so afraid of meeting people who knew me. Then I met a lady from the Gujerati community who helped me face things.

Housing told me to claim benefits, but I couldn't go on the state. If my husband came back, it would have killed his pride. I fed my children eggs and bread. My one guilt was not being able to give my children hot meals.

What you go through mentally is really torture. You think things will be better tomorrow and tomorrow never comes. You think people are looking at you differently when you go into the hotel. It's not the same as walking into an ordinary hotel. We were used to staying in hotels but I never knew this side of life existed. I'm glad I've seen it, it opens your eyes. Our only fault was trying to help our in-laws. I came from a rich family, I was brought up well and educated in a private school. To come from that and go down . . . I've got my confidence back now, but the feeling of being 'homeless' never leaves.

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