A disabled woman is fighting for accessible council housing after falling down stairs while carrying her mobility aids having had an epileptic seizure.
Tanya Virgoe, 32, has spent the past two years living in a room at Keehan’s hotel, in Regency Square, Brighton.
The room is too small for her to use her mobility aids and does not have a working fridge.
Ms Virgoe, who has epilepsy, chronic migraines and fibromyalgia, has also been suffering with poor mental health after the accident two weeks ago.
She said: “I had an epileptic seizure going down the stairs and I fell on my walker, which I have to carry up and down two flights each day, and it’s driving me mad.
“I’ve bruised all my ribs, I’ve bruised my right knee, I’ve pulled the ligaments in my left foot and I’ve bruised my hands. I hate it here.
“It’s not suitable for me. It’s dangerous. It’s small – and I can’t use my mobility walker around my room because it’s that small.
“I can’t get in my shower because it’s got a huge step into it and with fibromyalgia you get really stiff.
“I can’t physically get in and out of my shower so I have to seek out my mate’s shower because it’s bigger and there’s no step.
“My toilet is so small and claustrophobic. It’s dreadful. I hate it.”
Her current case for housing reallocation has been open since March and she wants Brighton and Hove City Council to offer her a more suitable permanent and accessible placement in Brighton.
But there is a lack of availability of accessible housing in Brighton, where her medical support network is.
Each placement offered to her by the housing allocations team has been rejected as unsuitable.
Ms Virgoe said that placements which had been offered previously in Eastbourne and Peacehaven were unsuitable because of her inability to travel independently to her medical appointments in the centre of Brighton.
Another offer of accessible accommodation was rejected because it was an emergency placement.
Ms Virgoe said that she would have had to endure the stress and physical implications of moving again when she was reallocated somewhere permanent.
Since she was kicked out of the family home aged sixteen, Ms Virgoe said, she had been in and out of homeless shelters including Kendal Court, in Newhaven, and the Lynwood Hotel, formerly the Saffron Hotel, in Eastbourne.
She took the offer of a temporary second floor room in Keehan’s Hotel in April 2020 after being bullied and receiving death threats at the Saffron Hotel.
Now she has enlisted a relative to help advocate on her behalf and has been in contact with Green councillor Tom Druitt, who represents Regency ward, and the council’s housing team.
She said: “For about a year and 8 months, I had no communication from the council.
“My mental health has gone downhill dramatically since being in here. I feel truly suicidal all the time, I’m very low mood and I’m very snappy with everyone.
“I just feel like I’ve been put in here and forgotten about and my mental health makes me want to scream but I can’t because no one will listen.
“It’s very frustrating. They’re not listening to me about my disabilities and what I need specifically. They keep trying to palm me off to another area out of Brighton but I have my support network in Brighton.”
Councillor Druitt said: “It’s a crying shame that someone with mobility needs has been forced to live somewhere with stairs.
“I was very upset to hear of Tanya’s situation and have asked council officers to see what we can do to help. I will continue to work with officers until we have found a proper solution for Tanya.”
The council said that it could not comment on an individual case because of the complex nature of housing allocations.
The council also said: “We’re very sorry when anyone is living in accommodation they feel doesn’t meet their needs.
“Our homelessness prevention team works very hard to support people into accommodation that better suits their needs as quickly as possible.
“The national homelessness crisis is acutely felt in Brighton and Hove and there’s huge pressure on our homelessness services.
“There’s a shortage of emergency and temporary accommodation and supported housing in the city.
“When emergency situations are presented to us, our response will always be determined by what’s available to meet a person’s needs.
“Due to the urgency, this may mean a short-term solution while we look to find somewhere more appropriate.
“Over the last three years we have considerably increased the supply of all types of council-owned accommodation in the city, including building a range of new housing that is easily accessible and adaptable to meet residents’ changing needs. More increases of supply are in the pipeline for future years.
“However, we are swimming against the tide of a national shortage of affordable accommodation and our local resources are limited so this improved supply will never be enough to tackle the shortage of affordable housing in the city.
“So we work hard with residents threatened with homelessness to present a range of alternative, suitable options.”
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