Yesterday was heading to be one of my best days since my release in June 2017, however, discrimination against people with criminal records, regardless of the positive progression I have been on, made sure it would turn out to be one of my biggest mental battles ever.
I was released from prison on the 9th June 2017. Regular readers will know that, although I had arranged everything for discharge to Norwich, in respect of my support network, however, at virtually the last minute Probation and the MAPPA panel decided to send me to an approved premises in Luton for six weeks, with of course, extremely restrictive conditions on my licence, not that I wanted to go out much anyway. Then on Monday 24th July 2017 I was transferred from Luton to Norwich, to another approved premises with extra conditions. I played the game, jumped when asked to jump, yes sir, no sir, three bags full sir, to a point that after only five weeks I was able to move on to supported accommodation, no more sign ins, no more curfew, although technically still in the system I was one simple step away from independent living or so I thought. That was 28th August 2017. One thing I have not mentioned is that whilst in the Norwich approved premises I was referred to Stonham Housing to discuss potential move on to my own property, however, although they sat me down to discuss options, they failed to mention that they had their funding removed and will no longer be in existence, this I only found out a week later. My world crashed but only for a short time due to the excellence of Grace my support worker based at Future projects, who got me an interview with the House of Genesis, where I am now.
Okay, so that’s a bit of background. Now on to why yesterday was my worse day since being out, which considering there has been a few lows is not an underestimation of my current state. Last Friday I went to view a beautiful, affordable, well placed perfect studio flat, MY FUTURE. As soon as the viewing was finished I set the proverbial ball in motion, only to see it swing back and smack me in the face knocking me to the floor with a bang I have never felt before. Don’t get me wrong, I am long in the tooth enough to know not everything in life is guaranteed.
Yesterday I was moments away from signing on the dotted line ready for a mid March move in date and in my mind total freedom, Okay, so I’m not off licence till mid 2019 but I am now on monthly probation appointments, so minimal involvement with the system.
Something else I feel I need to disclose before moving on with original post is a situation that happened in December. Whilst I was a serving prisoner in HMP Norwich I had a preventable accident. I say preventable because had the prison fulfilled it’s duty of care it would not have happened. I decided to put in a claim, a claim that has been accepted and will be settled once my injury has been assessed for long term damage. So, in December I was sent to a private orthopaedic surgeon so that he could assess my ankle and write his report. A few weeks after I received a phone call from my solicitor informing me that he is the bearer of bad news, the doctor had refused to write a report because I was a prisoner at the time of the accident, I subsequently asked what happens next? Can he do this? To which my solicitor answered he wasn’t sure because it’s never happened before and they’ve done hundreds of claims for prisoners around the country. I do have another appointment booked to see a different surgeon in March, and at least the original surgeon was honest.
Back to yesterday. In the process of renting you are in communication with people on a regular basis with information being passed. Myself, due to my situation having to be more open and honest than most. The process continued, I am benefitting from something the council do, called the rent deposit scheme, which also includes the involvement of a credit union, more communication and more information between more parties, the process continued. References with my criminal background are of a premium. So when someone in my circle is a contact of the landlord and puts in a call explaining what the checks will uncover, not only that but also proudly explaining the incredible work I have been doing personally and professionally, it put my mind at rest. The process continued. The only people I can hand on heart say came out of this situation with integrity are myself (ironically as I’m the ex con!!) And the wonderful staff at the House of Genesis. All of a sudden, at the very last moment, my phone pinged, which may as well have been a sledgehammer slamming into my very existence, informing me that the landlord does not take those claiming housing benefits, I say landlord but that later changed to the landlords parents having the final say and them not wanting to take people on housing benefit, something I feel would’ve been known?