When I first meet Kay Garner, she has been living for months out of a hospital, when she should be at home. The 27-year-old had a spinal injury in September 2017 that left her paralysed.
After 12 weeks recovering in a spinal unit in Salisbury, she was due to be discharged in January, but because of a lack of accessible homes for disabled people, she has become a “bedblocker”: well enough to leave hospital, but with nowhere suitable to go. The private rented two-storey terraced house she shared with her boyfriend, Ryan Waters, before the accident is unusable with her new wheelchair – “I can’t even get inside,” she says – and her council can’t find social housing that is accessible to her.
The hospital has become Garner’s makeshift home. The nurses are kind, but she can only see friends and family during visiting hours; no one is allowed in past 8pm. “That’s not normal life,” she says. Meanwhile, since the couple have ended their rental agreement in the hope of getting an accessible property together, Waters is being housed by the council in Premier Inns, shipped from one to the next, from week to week. Garner has lived with him for four years and says not spending nights together is “horrible … You realise that all you are to the council, is a number, a statistic and your mental wellbeing means nothing to the people higher up.”
It needed intervention from her local MP to place her on the priority housing list (the council told her that because she gave up her rented house, she was technically “voluntarily homeless”). But once on the list, she discovered the few adapted bungalows available have an age requirement of 55-plus. “They even said if a 55-year-old able-bodied person were to bid, they would have priority over me. It felt like discrimination,” she says. Over five months, Garner and her partner won four bungalows by bidding, but “all got taken off me as I was too young”.
Garner had to be moved to a community hospital in Helston, Cornwall because the spinal unit needed her bed. With no suitable property on the council’s books, she was told she would have to take the drastic step of going into a residential home for the elderly. “It was a nice building – but not for a 27-year-old,” she says. “I’m so upset about this decision as I could be stuck there for months, even years.”
A few weeks later, Garner, who has been supported by the Spinal Injuries Association, emails me with news of a reprieve.
The council has found her a bungalow, but it will need multiple adaptations: a front and rear ramp, widened doorways and a wet room. She is relieved, but clearly affected by the stress. “It’s scary, constantly living in fear of the next move – care homes, change of hospitals – all because I didn’t have somewhere to move to.” Read the full article here.