|Ealing Man Forced To Live Next To People Who Nearly Killed Him|
Men who stabbed him 13 times released from prison
Ralph Richards* was nearly stabbed to death a stone’s throw from his Ealing council flat and now, years later, his attackers are free and living nearby.
But despite being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and raising a four-year-old daughter in a single bedroom flat, he is still waiting to be re-housed.
Classed as Band C housing priority, he likely faces years of waiting before he is moved to a larger place. He’s not alone, within Band C alone there are currently 1720 people waiting for two bedroom accommodation. There are an additional 81 in the higher-priority Band A, and 60 in Band B, and it’s all against a backdrop of a Housing Register that now totals 9216.
Mr Richards attack happened over two decades ago, with the perpetrators sent to prison after he testified against them.
As he recounts the attack, it is clear why he now suffers from PTSD.
“I was stabbed here… I ran out, I was holding my stomach, because my stomach was coming out in my hand. I could see it. I was keeping it in. Eventually I collapsed and needed a lifesaving operation.”
The headline in the Ealing Gazette of the incident read: “Good Samaritan stabbed 13 times.”
Ralph's assault left him with a number of scars, including these, which punctured his lungs. Picture: Ged Can
Since their release, Mr Richards said the attackers had assaulted him twice after he ran into them on nearby streets.
Mr Richards showed the Local Democracy Service a letter dated July 2015, in which his doctor requested he be moved. The letter notes that he was classed as disabled from injuries sustained, and often struggles to navigate the stairs in the building when the lifts aren’t operational. He has scars on his stomach, face, and side, where the youths punctured his lung, and relies on a walking stick, having had knee surgery after tearing his ACL as he fled.
The delay in being moved to another council flat may be partly down to a bidding system being introduced, which Mr Richards said he didn’t know how to use at first.
A council spokesman said of his case: “[The] applicant was placed on a Band C following his medical application in 2017 – and reaffirmed in his most recent medical assessment last year.
“However, if he believes that his condition has deteriorated since that time, he is welcome to complete a further medical form for assessment. He has been bidding since 2016 and is advised to keep bidding for his best chances.”
There are currently 94 transfer applicants and 1056 homeseekers in Band C actively bidding for two-bedroom properties.
According to council figures, from August 21 last year to August 20 this year, the local authority let 160 two-bedroom flats or maisonettes. The applicant who had been bidding longest had waited 13 years, with the average wait being five years. For the same period, the council let three houses with two bedrooms. The longest wait was sixteen years and the average wait was eight years.
The council spokesman said: “While an applicant may have been given an indication of the waiting period, any offer will depend on the availability of suitable properties, whether the applicant is actively bidding for accommodation and what they are bidding for.
“It is important to note that there will also be families who are eligible to bid for a home with three bedrooms who will place bids for those with two bedrooms because of the severe shortage of larger properties, thus increasing the demand.”
‘Daddy, it’s so small here.”
It’s not only the fear of running into his attackers that makes Mr Richards desperate to move. He says the one-bedroom flat is too small for him and his daughter, who lives with him full time.
He said: “When she comes home from her friend’s houses she says: ‘daddy, it’s so small here’.
Having a single bedroom was okay when she was a new born, but not anymore, he said.
“She’s got bigger and bigger and sometimes rolled over and touched me when she’s sleeping and I felt uneasy about it. Now I sleep on the floor.”
In an effort to make the cramped flat feel more like home, Mr Richards painted half the bedroom pink to give his daughter her own section.
The entire wall of the bedroom is full of her toys and teddies – all the things a four-year-old should have in her room.
Mr Richards’s things, meanwhile, are crammed into a single closet.
He said the flat simply wasn’t a home, and the building was no place to raise a child.
“It’s just a place to sleep, and bath, and leave.”
“There’s no balcony, there’s no garden.”
“In the steps there’s sometimes defecation and sometimes homeless people sleep there. You have to step over them with your child.”
“You have to be mentally strong, you can’t break or it will affect your child, but it’s as close as you can be to the edge.”
‘They don’t know I have a daughter’
Mr Richards said his attackers don’t know which building he lives in, or that he has a daughter.
The pair take a taxi or arrange a lift whenever they leave the building for safety reasons, which creates an added expense.
Mr Richards said: “I just want my daughter to be safe.”
Unable to work from complications stemming from the attack, Mr Richards goes quiet when asked what it’s like, not being able to improve things for his daughter.
After several seconds he gets out two words: “A failure.”
Far from his childhood dreams of running track and field, now his goal is simply to be moved to a new home where he and his daughter can live without fear.
He said he just wants two bedrooms, and maybe a garden where his daughter can play.
*Ralph Richards has been given a pseudonym, and some details of his assault and situation have been withheld to protect him from possible reprisals.
Ged Cann, Local Democracy Reporter
16th August 2019