FOR many years I shared a bedroom with my mum. It was a council flat and had two bedrooms but my bedroom, the smaller one, was so damp as to be uninhabitable.

Really the flat itself was uninhabitable and eventually, after 10 years there, we were decanted and the block demolished to be replaced by front and back door houses.

When we first moved in, my mum hired a painter and decorator to do the place up. My bedroom had an oblong window that took up nearly the width of the room. When the tradesman peeled the paper off, the wall underneath the window began to crumble.

I remember staring for a long time at this curiosity – you could see the grass outside. We had lived in many properties in several countries but never before had I encountered see-through walls.

It was so damp that the wall had been held up by layer upon layer of wallpaper. There were bits of wall in my bedroom that swelled out, like blisters, and you could push a finger into the lumpy bulges to hear the loose brick crackle. Other bits of wall were wet where damp bloomed and speckled.

The bathroom had mould that could never be vanquished with cleaning materials and mushrooms grew up through the kitchen floor. I’m not sure if they were edible; we never chanced it.

Other friends in other council flats dealt too with damp and mould and, for a very long time, I thought that damp housing was normal.

I almost never talk about this and recently I was thinking about why. Shame, really, is the answer. Not my shame, in particular, but my poor mum’s shame. She would be mortified to think that ­people knew we lived in substandard council housing.

There are a great many more details I could give about that flat but, as a compromise, I’ll go only so far as the mushrooms.

But isn’t it silly that the shame is ours, rather than the shame ­being that of the local authority, the landlord allowing its tenants to live in such dire, dire surroundings.

Poverty and shame go hand in hand. Who wants to admit that they aren’t providing for their child what other parents can provide? Who wants to admit to hard times and stretched funds or, as is increasingly the case, no funds at all.

We’ve come a long way since the tabloid tales of single mums on benefits being scorned for sponging enough free money to afford 10 children and a flat screen TV but myths of and shame at poverty still cling.

Now, though, after a confluence of circumstances, we’re seeing a change in how we view people who are struggling. During the pandemic, community volunteers covered over the cracks caused by gaps in the social safety net.

A focus on local people helping in their local areas, neighbours pitching in for neighbours, gave a much better understanding of the situations of others.

Swiftly following the pandemic is the cost of living crisis, a neat phrase that sums up the issue without giving a face or a voice to the people living through the worst of it.

Suddenly everyone is affected by price hikes and energy increases. Even from middle-class families with savings and steady work, there is panicked talk of cutting back, down and out.

Those who can still make ends meet with a bit of cost-cutting are the lucky ones.

We still talk about the choice ­between “heating or eating” but this choice is a fallacy.

Standing charges are now so high that ­people will still be paying massively ­increased costs for the daily charges even without running ­appliances or ­having the heating on.

The choice is more “eating or staying connected to the grid”, which is factual but far less ­snappy. Essentially, people who can very least afford it will be accruing debt but having absolutely nothing to show for it. Millions are to be plunged into poverty thanks to the choices of this current government. People who ­always assumed they would be financially okay will start to ­struggle.

For a long time, poverty was seen as going hand in hand with laziness and fecklessness, rather than the truth, which is that some ­people are lucky and other people are not. ­Fortune, fickle fortune, smiles where she likes.

The pandemic, and now the cost of living crisis, show that circumstance is very often a matter of whim and that anyone can be at risk of losing what they have built.

This insight is valuable because a united front is vital.

Politicians shy away from ­increasing benefits because they worry about spooking voters who still believe that the benefits ­system exists to keep layabouts in ready meals and fags.

Many more of us are vulnerable now and that vulnerability should bring with it a sharp change in attitude from poverty as failure of character to the reality – that poverty is not the shame of the individual but a collective shame of failed political systems.