From hell to heaven

Marie Girard just wanted a home where her three children would feel safe. When her local council said her estate was due to be demolished, she couldn’t wait to leave and start a new life.

Single mum Marie Girard was making the best of a cramped two-bedroomed maisonette on a problem estate in Romford. She experienced anti-social behaviour on a daily basis and it was really getting her down.

“It was a rough estate – homeless people squatting in the bin rooms, used needles in the gardens, youths setting off fireworks and starting fires in the stairwell,” says Marie. “I had made it really homely inside but as soon as my kids opened the front door they were exposed to some horrible things.”

“It’s the first place we’ve lived in that feels like home.”

When Marie received a letter from the council saying they wanted to demolish her building as part of a regeneration scheme, she was relieved. The council had to offer her two alternative properties and a case worker interviewed her to decide which home be suitable.

“I was completely honest with them about what I wanted, and the rent being affordable was so important,” says Marie. “I also wanted some private outside space and not to share a communal door.”

They came up with two offers – one of which was a semi-detached, modern home with a huge drive, three big bedrooms and a garden.

“My kids now have the freedom to play outside for the first time in their lives.”

“When I went to view the house with someone from L&Q, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” says Marie. “It was a beautiful, spacious home with granite worktops and a butler’s sink. It was nothing short of a miracle!”

The cost of rent was also a key consideration.

“The rent needed to be affordable so when I found out I would be paying less for this beautiful home than my old maisonette, I was lost for words,” says Marie. “If I had rented a house like this privately, it would have cost about £1,400 a month and there’s no way I could have afforded it.”

As soon as they moved in, Marie saw an immediate change in her children and the stress she had felt for years was gone.

“The kids are so happy here. They can play out into the garden which is very private and I don’t have to worry about them,” Marie says. “For the first week we ate outside every day!”

The whole house was given a lick of fresh, white paint and new carpets throughout so it was ready for the family to move straight in.

“I can’t thank L&Q enough for everything they have done for us,” says Marie. “My housing officer has been fantastic and so has the builder who made sure everything was safe and beautifully decorated ready for day one.”

“I feel safe and secure living in a nice area with lovely neighbours.”

Now that her worries are behind her, Marie can focus on studying for a degree in social work. She’s looking forward to working with adults with learning difficulties when she graduates.

“My life would have been so much harder if I had stayed there,” says Marie. “Now we all have the space to study in peace without having to worry about what’s happening outside. The future is certainly looking bright for me and my children.”