I try to avoid contact with Housing as much as possible. It comes very close to the ‘hello, head – meet brick wall’ kind of scenario. I know they are very busy and all but sometimes it seems like every conversation turns into a battle. Even relatively mundune ones.
I could write reams about some of the ‘firmer’ discussions I have had with my colleagues in the Housing department. Whenever I am asked to ‘push a housing application along’ I run scared – actually I explain the brutal and honest truth – namely that I have no influence whatsoever on housing applications and although I can sometimes make a phone call or two it doesn’t really have a massive effect.
Except in some occasions. I have been following through with Mrs S because she lives with her son and his family. They are moving to Australia en masse in a few months and she isn’t. So she needs somewhere to live.
We are looking at sheltered accommodation as she doesn’t really have any physical care needs. It is actually plain and simple (if it ever is) about having a roof over her head. Obviously though, it would be anxiety-ridden at the best of times and these aren’t the best of times for her.
She completed the forms herself and submitted them to the relevant department but had heard nothing. She asked me to make a few calls. I agreed with my usual reticence.
The first call was to confirm the receipt of the supporting documents she had sent with proof of identity, residency etc. They were all present and correct when I called.
Still no word after a couple of months. She called me a couple of weeks ago beginning to panic a little with the lack of response. I made another call or two but this time didn’t manage to speak to anyone directly and rather left a string of messages which, unsurprisingly, weren’t returned.
I knew her forms hadn’t been received by the person who manages the sheltered housing applications (because I phoned her direct as we have had a fair few conversations over the years) and I knew the forms had been received by the housing department so somewhere we needed to bridge this gap.
A couple of days ago and no returned call my righteous indignation levels are rising dangerously high. I called the housing number and was told their computers were down and the only named person with whom I was dealing ‘didn’t take telephone calls’. So I did the only thing I know what to do in those circumstances and asked for a string of email addresses, line manager by line manager, up to the Assistant Director level.
And I pieced together an email detailing all my contacts and attempted contacts, with the housing department relating to this particular case. I detailed the messages I had left, the emails I had written over the months – all of which had been unanswered.
I copied into the email the named person with whom I had been dealing. I thought that was only fair. As well as his manager.
I got the ‘undelivered mail’ message back seconds after hitting ‘send’. I had been given the wrong spelling of the manager of the team’s email address. I’d like to think it was unintentional but at least the addressee himself knew I was more than a little peeved and willing to take this as far up as it needed to go.
Actually his response angered me more. He thanked me for my email – explained that no, he didn’t take telephone calls any more – and that as Mrs S met all the criteria for sheltered housing, he would see she was put on that list immediately. Mission accomplished.
My reply (with manager’s name spelt correctly this time) was somewhat terse in substance though. Basically, explaining that if she met the criteria now, she would also have met the criteria two months ago when all the documentation was sent. She has been ‘off’ the list for two months for no reason at all and had I not sent that email on that day – she would have remained off the list although everything had been completed exactly according to their procedures and all the correct documents had been sent.
She’ll be fine now though. There is enough time for a property to show up and I’m pretty confident she’ll be housed.
My worry related to how many other people might be thinking they are on the waiting list when, in fact, they aren’t because there isn’t anyone ranting and raving and copying all their email correspondence in to the managers of the rehousing team when they don’t get satisfactory responses.
That makes me furious.