A new start for Sandra after Royston community steps up to help

Sandra with nurse Di Walters and members of the fire service. Picture: Courtesy of Di Walters.

Sandra with nurse Di Walters and members of the fire service. Picture: Courtesy of Di Walters. - Credit: Archant

The Royston community has pulled together to help transform the flat of an elderly lady who has lived without water and heating in her home for more than two years.

Sandra in her newly renovated flat. Picture: Courtesy of Di Walters.

Sandra in her newly renovated flat. Picture: Courtesy of Di Walters. - Credit: Archant

Sandra, 70, experienced difficulties after the death of her father, who she lived with in Royston, and became socially isolated and withdrawn.

Her toilet developed a leak and her electrics fused – and because she felt unable to let anyone in to fix the problems, she lived without a proper water supply, heating and electric lights for more than two years.

She became ill with pneumonia and had a stay in hospital, and then when she failed to turn up for an appointment at Market Hill Surgery in December last year, nurse Di Walters went to check on her.

She said: “I drove to Sandra’s flat but she did not answer the door to me so I walked round the flat and tapped on the window.

“She was alive, but shooed me away. I persuaded her after a long chat to let me in. Her home conditions were the worse I had ever seen.

“It was freezing cold, and the air was damp and pungent. The floor was two-foot-deep with plastic water bottles and rubbish.

Most Read

“She told me no-one had stepped into her flat for years. Her front door lock was broken and she had been afraid to leave the flat unlocked which was why she had no food. She could have starved or frozen to death within days.”

Di left and started a plan of action. Following a meeting at the fire station, the lock was repaired and Sandra was able to shop for food. Agencies like the community mental heath team and Citizens Advice met with Sandra and Di asked around for any charitable donations to help get her flat back up to scratch.

Di said: “When I took a moment to think about her sitting alone and cold, my eyes would fill with tears. I visited regularly with hot drinks and snacks over Christmas and my student nurse daughter came one day and reset the fuse box and got two lights working.

“Everyone I approached for donations responded with amazing generosity.”

Di was joined by a team of professionals from organisations including Hansons Services Ltd and Extra Care Home Cleaning, who worked to clear and renovate the flat while Sandra was looked after at a B&B.

After the flat was dried out. the walls were washed in preparation for a new kitchen, bathroom, vinyl flooring, decoration, electrical repairs, a new hot water tank and heating as well as furniture, white goods, food, soft furnishings and clothes.

Tom Hanson, of Hanson Services Ltd, said: “We were working in the proximity of Sandra’s flat and were made aware of the unfortunate state and repair it had become by Diane.

“It was an easy decision for us to help as no-one should be living in those conditions and we weren’t prepared to look the other way.

“We leaned on some suppliers of ours in the Royston area like Jewsons, Howdens and NCPI, who all rallied to support the materials required for the work and we helped to manage the labour and support where we could.

“Mental health affects so many at various stages of life and we should all help in any way that we can to support those in our community.”

Many more workers and volunteers from the community have also helped the cause including Market Hill’s dental and doctors surgeries, Age UK, Royston’s parish church, The Chequers and Royston charity shops.

Di added: “Sandra moved back home on Friday thanks to the kind people and companies of Royston who have donated their time and energy into saving a woman who lost her way and could not ask for help. To everyone who got involved, thank you.”