THE fear of going home to a “grotty council hovel” has left one man afraid to have an operation that could help him to walk again.
In 2004, while working in Germany, 50-year-old Greg Smith broke his femur and hip and had to have operations to have both replaced.
Only a few months later, he injured his ankle while at work and doctors kept telling him it was just a sprain – until eight months later when they discovered it had in fact broken and fused back together in the wrong place.
He said: “I thought I’d twisted it and kept going down to the doctors because it was so painful and wasn’t getting better.
“It’s difficult to walk on it now so I have a blue disabled badge for my car and have been given a freedom pass so I can get around easier, but whenever I have to stand or walk I am in pain.”
Now ten years later, he says doctors are finally taking a look at the problem and he is scheduled to have an operation on October 29 to find out what is wrong with his ankle.
Although this should be good news for the former lorry driver, he says he is dreading coming home in a wheelchair next week after his hospital visit because of the state of his current accommodation.
After being housed in Harrow Hotel – with no kitchen or place to wash his clothes - for five months, he has now been moved to a studio flat bedsit in Weald Lane, Harrow Weald, where he says is desperately worried he could be left on the floor for days if he fell over.
Mr Smith said: “I can fall quite easily because of the problems with my femur, my hip and now my ankle and if I fell in the bathroom – which has happened before – no one would know. I could be there for days before I could contact anyone.
“It’s just a grotty council hovel, one room with a bed in it and a microwave, and is not the kind of place a person would be able to recover properly from an operation.
“They’ve had to cancel my first operation twice now because my blood pressure is too high and I have a history of depression, but they don’t seem to think that leaving me in a place like this could put me at risk.”
He is due to view a potential new and permanent home this week, but he says he fears that the council do not see him as a medical emergency.
Mr Smith added: “The council don’t care and they don’t seem to want to help. I’ve worked since I was 16, for 34 years, and paid my taxes for all that time but they seem to be treating me like I’m just some guy who won’t work, not that I’m disabled.”
Harrow East MP Bob Blackman has even written to the council in support of Mr Smith, saying: “It is no wonder that Mr Smith feels let down by the system, given that he is being refused housing despite reduced mobility and suffering serious pain as a result, when his GP and family support system are all Harrow based.
“This is, in my opinion, disgraceful and that is why I am continuing to press the council to help him.”
A council spokesperson said: “We do our best to help homeless applicants obtain suitable accommodation, and when we offer accommodation it is based on the needs of each individual or family.
“We have been helping Mr Smith since May 2015 to find him a place that meets his needs and have considered his medical information.
“While he is currently not considered as having a priority need under the homeless legislation, we understand that his circumstances may change after his operation and he will possibly be required to use a wheelchair to aid his recovery. This is why we have provided him with emergency accommodation at a ground floor wheelchair accessible flat in Weald Lane.
“Following Mr Smith’s operation, we will review his housing needs, and again work with him to help him find a suitable long term housing solution. We will take into account the type of accommodation needed whilst monitoring his recovery.”