David Wright - Caridon & Me
25th February 2019
It was a dark and stormy afternoon...
I was 68, already past retirement age, when circumstances of bad health –congestive heart failure, the inadequacy of a pacemaker after 9 years of ill-health to permit anything like a regular life, and kidney problems – finally forced me to do something I’d sworn I never would. Return to the UK after several decades, and throw myself on the mercy of the State, and NHS. The US has great health care – so long as you have insurance (through work, when offered) or money.
62% of all personal bankruptcies in the US are caused by medical debt.
I’d seen a reasonable level of comfort fall, over 9 years, to near homelessness, and looming bankruptcy. Yes, there is some medical help for the indigent – but it’s completely inadequate if you have much more than short-term flu. I did.
Long story short, I finally managed to get back here, but was faced with the problems of documenting my ‘right of abode’ in the UK,re-enrolling with the NHS, starting my state pension, and – the real worry – housing. The word you’ve been waiting for!
After so long an absence, what relatives or friends I once had here were dead, or long lost to contact. So no help from that quarter.
Through a contact at Catholic Charities San Francisco, I had contact details of nonprofits in the UK that might be able to help.
My first night back was spent at a Hostel in Finsbury Park, via arrangements made by a Travelers’ Help desk at Heathrow. Finsbury Park was to be my base for the seven weeks it took to get all the administrative details of living here – including the all-important state pension! – arranged. Hostel life was rather like something my parents had threatened me with if I didn’t do my homework! But being warm, dry and safe, it was a huge relief and help.
During that time,I was working with one of the non-profits towards arranging the administrative details of residence here, and permanent accommodation. They very helpfully put me in touch with Lora, at Caridon, and armed with letters of reference, I explained my situation to her. Within a couple of weeks, she’d located a place that she thought might be suitable. Given the pressure on low-income housing, particularly in the rental sector, this was pretty amazing. So, I and a few others turned up as arranged to view the property. I fell in love with it instantly. Turns out it was built as Victorian worker housing, and completed around 1867! Charles Dickens was then still alive. But exactly what I was looking for. Not having family to house, a small apartment was perfect; the others who viewed the apartment were at best lukewarm, as it didn’t meet their needs. So,I got my first Caridon housing!
After a couple of years, the owner decided to sell the property, so I was faced again with moving. ‘Don’t worry,’ Lora said. ‘We’ll get something for you.’ Nice to hear, but I worried! Under statute, I had three months to find somewhere else.
I needn’t have worried. Lora once again pulled a residential rabbit out of her Amazing Hat of Rabbits.
I’m now happily settled in, and have been for five additional years. During that time, there have been various small repairs or adjustments needed; Caridon has taken care of these fast and effectively. After the Grenfell Tower disaster, Caridon called me to check up on smoke detectors and fire alarms within the property. There were both, I was able to report, and regularly tested (successfully!) I mention this because it was something that was above and beyond the terms of any ‘contract’. It showed the same actual care for people that has been my experience with Lora, and Caridon. Because of the situation that led me back here, I’ve been sensitized to acts of kindness, not just to me, but generally. There are utter horror stories about renting, and rental agents. But I couldn’t have been more kindly treated by family.
In case anyone thinks, ‘Well, he would write like that, wouldn’t he? Just a puff piece!’ –well, I wouldn’t, unless what I said was true! Nobody should be reluctant to express honest, deserved gratitude.
In the immortal words of Tiny Tim, in ‘A Christmas Carol’ –God bless us, every one