Woman slept on buses for three months while waiting for council help

The 59-year-old, who suffers from cataracts and type-two diabetes, slept rough all through winter before the council intervened, reports Marco Marcelline

Credit: Franckreporter via Canva

A homeless 59-year-old woman slept rough for three and a half months while waiting for Waltham Forest Council to provide her with temporary housing.

Shalote Chadambura has been homeless since June 2023, when she and her 21-year-old daughter were evicted from their privately rented flat in Walthamstow. A Zimbabwean national who has been living in the UK for more than two decades, Shalote ran into financial difficulties after losing her job as a care support worker in 2022 because her right to remain visa had expired.

In July Shalote was issued with a renewed leave to remain biometric permit which allowed her to work again. At this point she and her daughter were staying at a family friend’s house and Shalote, who suffers with type-two diabetes and cataracts, was suffering from failing health.

Shalote told the Echo she has very poor vision in her left eye due to cataracts, which means she cannot work. She had left cataract surgery in November, and is also diagnosed with type-two diabetes which she carries insulin around to treat. This information, her daughter says, was passed onto council housing officers in December.

In September, her daughter Shanice* went back to study at Leicester University and, on 18th October, Shalote’s family friend told her she could no longer stay with them, which meant she was out on the street. From that night until Friday 2nd February, Shalote was sleeping rough and did not manage to have a full shower once.

During the Christmas break, Shanice returned to London and was forced to sleep rough with her mother on buses – even on Christmas Day. Shanice says she was dealing with the council at this point and that the housing officer responsible for her case did not respond to her requests for emergency accommodation between Christmas Eve and 4th January because she was away on holiday.

When Shanice came back to London over her Christmas break, she was forced to join her mother in sleeping rough on buses. After finishing her shift at a Shoreditch bar, Shanice and Shalote would jump on the N55 bus and try to catch some sleep. Shanice says she was “too embarrassed” to tell friends or colleagues about being homeless. At work she would smile at customers, but then cry on the toilet during breaks.

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She would “freshen up” in the bar’s bathroom, and says she only managed to take one shower over the three-week period she was back in London. She told the Echo that her housing struggles have caused her to fall behind “terribly” in her university studies, and had been close to taking a year out but was now determined to finish.

Shanice said: “I always felt bad for homeless people on the street but now I know how bad it is. It’s crazy. I never expected this to happen to me.”

Shalote was only taken off the streets in February when Anthea Ioannou, the founder of homeless non-profit Street Angelz, heard her crying at a GP surgery. Through an urgent public fundraising campaign, Anthea was able to put her up in a Bow hotel on 2nd February for ten days at a cost of over £500.

On 12th February the council provided her with emergency accommodation in a Chingford hotel, where she will remain until at least 14th March. Through tears, Shalote said: “I just pray that God will help me more because what is happening, I don’t understand it.”

After over three months on the street, Shalote secured a ten day hotel stay paid for by kind strangers.

Ahsan Khan, deputy leader and cabinet member for housing and regeneration, said: “We know how worrying the risk of becoming homeless is for people who experience it. We work hard to help anyone who approaches us in need. Unfortunately, the local demand for housing far outstrips supply. Medical information was requested on initial contact with the council in October 2023, and was received in February 2024. The case is being assessed using the information available to the council.”

A council spokesperson added that the contact centre was open during the entire Christmas and new year period, and a housing officer was also on call for emergency issues. They added: “There are no records of calls regarding this case over the Christmas and new year period.”

The spokesperson also said: “[Shanice] was added to her mother’s homeless application in November 2023. [She] is currently at university out of the borough until June 2024. There is no application process for temporary accommodation, whether an applicant is offered temporary accommodation depends on their homelessness assessment.”

*Names have been changed to protect anonymity.

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