A woman says she was evicted from her home while in a coma and came out of intensive care to find all her possessions gone.
Juliet Iswan, 43, was in Bristol Royal Infirmary last February after suffering a stroke which left her in a coma. She stayed in the ICU for ten months until January 2024 and is now staying in social housing with nothing but a hospital bed and hospital gowns.
Before being admitted to hospital, Juliet had a home in the Connolly & Callaghan emergency housing accommodation, in Bristol – where she lived for eight years.
After being in a coma for five weeks, she said all her belongings – including £300 in cash, her passport, irreplaceable family jewelery and other possessions – had been sold or disposed of.
Juliet, who was born with sickle cell disease which can cause a stroke, said neither the council nor Connolly & Callaghan were taking responsibility for her affairs.
Connolly & Callaghan said they acted “in accordance with our contractual obligations” which required them to store belongings for seven days. He also denied that any items were auctioned and said they had “no complaint on file in this matter”.
A spokesman for Bristol City Council said that the housing provider, not the council, is responsible for a tenant’s possessions.
‘I have nothing’
Juliet said she had lived in a one-bedroom flat in Stokes Croft for more than six years and the agents knew she would be in hospital whenever she was not at home. She said: “I was told when I came out of the coma that I had been evicted from my house and all my things were gone.
“The most important things I can’t even put a monetary value on – necklaces, earrings, every gift I’ve ever received from my parents are in that box – my Mum, my Mum – and it looks like it’s gone.
“I’ve lost all my clothes, shoes still in boxes – I’d love to walk every rainy day, I’d walk but now I have nothing.
“I don’t even know where my passport is. Now I’m in a cold house with just a hospital bed and that’s it – how can you release someone into this world?”
Juliet, who was born in Uganda, has lived in Bristol since 2005 but after suffering a severe stroke in 2009 she became physically disabled and had to have multiple hip replacements.
Juliet was told that she or a member of her family could collect some of the ‘important’ items, but when they were collected, she said her friend was only given her medication and an empty jewelery box. She added that she was told a homelessness officer had spoken to her agents, saying she was about to be released and had been offered a one-bedroom council flat – so they were trying to collect things for her .
A spokesperson for Connolly & Callaghan said: “To dispose of property, we need to receive a TORT letter from the statutory agency and the statutory agency sends a copy to the resident, then and only then is property disposed of.
“There have been a few inquiries about Juliet’s belongings this week, however the first response from my colleague was that we generally don’t keep belongings for more than 7 days, so if Juliet was released 8 months ago (as said the inquirer. ) it is unlikely that we have them yet.
They added: “We sympathize with the residents booked into our accommodation and will always try to accommodate where we can. It is very disappointing that the account below is inaccurate and portrays our colleagues as if they do not care on those in our accommodation. not true.”
Juliet’s friend has set up a fundraiser to help her.
Landlords ‘fail to consider’ vulnerabilities
A new report calling for a Royal Commission says grief and financial distress must be considered among factors that could make a social housing resident vulnerable. The Housing Ombudsman Service said it has seen evidence that landlords have failed to assess such vulnerabilities.
In its latest report which focused on attitudes, rights and respect, the ombudsman said it assessed what it means to be vulnerable in social housing in 2024 and how social landlords can better respond to the needs of residents that.
He called for a new Royal Commission – a committee appointed for a specific investigative or advisory purpose – into housing, which he said could be “transformational” as such an inquiry would be independent of the Government and “not politics would be blocked”.
The report – which was made up of more than 1,663 public responses from a call for evidence and hundreds of ombudsman cases – said that while vulnerability is defined under the Care Act, not all people who are vulnerable will meet this legal definition.