Council cancelled homeless mother’s hotel room without immediate offer of alternative housing

The council made the move after allegedly accusing the mother-of-four of ‘abandoning’ a room she says was overcrowded and had a mouldy mattress, reports Josh Mellor, Local Democracy Reporter

Homeless mother Stephanie* has been living in hotels and sofa surfing since fleeing domestic violence in June. Credit: LDRS

A homeless Walthamstow mum who fled domestic violence in June says she feels like she is “failing” her children after spending months staying in hotels and sofa surfing.

Stephanie*, a mother-of-four, left her partner in June this year after a violent incident and asked Waltham Forest Council for help.

Since then, she has been living at her mother’s home, with friends and later in several overcrowded hotel rooms provided by the council.

But in early October, the council abruptly cancelled her hotel room in Stratford without providing her with anywhere else to stay.

She told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) the council had accused her of “abandoning” the hotel room, which was provided because she had experienced domestic violence and cannot afford private rents.

However, she had told the council the four-bed hotel room was overcrowded, lacked facilities for cooking and had a mouldy mattress which was only “wiped” when she complained.

The mother was given the hotel room after moving between a series of other hotels at short notice, adding additional stress to the domestic situation she had left.

Stephanie told the LDRS: “The housing side took over everything, there was no time to be upset about what happened [with the breakup]… it’s been really stressful.

“I’m feeling a bit lost. I’ve had to be [together], but my head is at 101mph, it’s just getting to the point now where I feel like I’m stuck, really really stuck.

“There’s no other way to explain it, there’s no light at the end of the tunnel, I’m trying to open a door and there’s a brick wall behind it.

“I’m thinking about having a safe place, I can’t provide that for them and that’s what is so upsetting and that I’m almost failing them.”

Two weeks after evicting the family from the home in early October, the council offered them the same room in the same hotel.

After leaving her partner in June, the family spent two months staying in their grandmother’s small flat, despite the children’s social worker making an “urgent request” to her council colleagues housing support due to overcrowding.

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At an initial housing needs assessment, a male council officer interviewed her by video call with his camera off and asked to take a photograph of her.

He then suggested that the council could help her move to Liverpool, Telford [in Shropshire], or “somewhere else up north”.

Stephanie said she was then “left lost and not knowing what to do, like I had failed my kids.”

Accommodation was not provided until her local councillor, Kischa Green, intervened and cabinet member for housing and regeneration Ahsan Khan asked for a review of the mother’s “concerning” case.

The mother-of-four refused for the same reasons she had already complained about, and has now been offered a similar-sized room in a hotel in Ilford that appears to be run by the same company.

If she accepts the room, she will have overstayed the government’s six-week limit on how long families should be kept in temporary accommodation for.

She told the LDRS that at one point her room cost the council £800 per week, money which she felt would be better spent on private accommodation where she could cook for her family.

Cllr Ahsan Khan, Cabinet Member for Housing and Regeneration said: “The shortage of suitable housing for social rent in general, in Waltham Forest, London, and the South East is well known.

“As a local authority we are building more social homes, but despite our proud record demand continues to outstrip supply.

“In the meantime, we do our best to provide local properties to homeless households in need of emergency accommodation.

“Using B&Bs and hotels is never our first choice, but the chronic housing crisis across London and the UK means that, unfortunately, sometimes there is no alternative.

“We continue to work with local landlords and letting agents to increase the supply of private rented sector properties available to homeless households and have a number of incentive schemes which are designed to support this.

“Any properties identified are subject to a range of suitability checks including whether the accommodation is affordable to the prospective tenant.”

* The mother’s name was changed to protect her anonymity.

Update: This article was updated to include comment from Waltham Forest Council

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