News Walthamstow

Working widow with autistic son housed in empty room two hours away

Nana fears losing her early morning job after being moved two hours away

Nana and a travel bed donated by her employer (credit: Sarah Sachs-Elridge)
Nana and a travel bed donated by her employer (credit: Sarah Sachs-Elridge)

A “devoted” primary school assistant and her autistic son were forced to sleep on the floor after being housed in an entirely unfurnished room by Waltham Forest Council.

Widow Nana Yaa, 58, and her 22-year-old son Jason were thrown out of their home of over a decade by bailiffs on 7th December so their landlord could sell the property.

After an entire day struggling to get help from the council, they were placed in a hostel overnight and then temporary accommodation in Beckton, in a room with no beds or other furniture.

The distance from Walthamstow means Nana is unable to reach her job at Stoneydown Park Primary School in time for her usual 6am start.

Nana told the Echo: “I want the council to bring me back to the borough, I don’t want to lose my job, I want to work. 

“It takes me two hours to get to the school from here so I can’t do my morning cleaning job, only the lunchtime job that starts at 11.30am, but the cleaning pays me more than £300 a month.

“My son is autistic and finds it difficult when there’s any change, even with something like his food. He keeps saying he feels like a prisoner and asking why they didn’t bring us beds.

“At first, we were just wearing our jackets and sleeping on the carpet. If it was just me, it would be no problem but he is a poor, innocent man. He doesn’t understand and he’s so stressed, he just keeps crying and crying.”

The school’s deputy headteacher donated a travel bed on 14th December but, despite calling every day, Nana says the council have so far provided nothing.

She and her supporters spoke before the council’s housing scrutiny committee on 15th December, urging them to relocate her as soon as possible. 

Nana’s supporters implore councillors to relocate her (credit: LDRS)

Sonali Bhattacharyya told councillors that Stoneydown parents are “appalled” at the way Nana and her son have been treated since first asking the council for help in July.

She said: “Nana is an essential part of a staff team of key workers who’ve ensured Stoneydown has remained a safe, welcoming and supportive community for children and their families throughout the pandemic – the most challenging period most of us have ever experienced.

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“She has nurtured the children at the school as a friendly, fun and loving midday assistant, helping them at lunchtime with their school dinners, keeping them entertained and attending to them if they get hurt or are upset.”

Socialist campaigner Nancy Taaffe added: “You are building the wrong type of flats, what you call affordable is not affordable and instead of alleviating homeslessess you are compounding the problem, especially for women with children

“Last month it was Nadia, this month it’s Nana and Izebela. There is a growing constituency of people coming to us for help, after knocking on your door… as Nana did as she waited for six hours before we stepped in.”

To loud applause from Conservative member Nick Halebi, she added: “We urge you to fight for rent controls, to fight for council housing and against empty properties because this constituency of people is getting bigger and they are fighting back.”

Louise Mitchell, cabinet member for housing, responded that the “difficult times” faced by residents are the fault of the Conservative government’s benefit cap and “slashing budgets”.

She added: “I think we need to be clear that the difficulties faced in Waltham Forest are faced in every borough across London and in every authority in the South East. 

“Colleagues may be reassured that currently a total of 1,031 social rent homes are either being built or have planning committee approval in this borough and there are over 650 units of other types of affordable housing – the largest project of affordable house building in a generation. 

“[Council-owned developer] Sixty Bricks continues to increase its development pipeline with an ambition to build 4,000 new council homes over the next decade.

“As a council we have invested almost £112million of capital funding into new housing in Waltham Forest over the last five years.”

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