‘I’m telling the kids that Santa will still be able to find them’: Children ‘forced’ to live in a hostel’s shed are ‘scared’ to cross the garden at night to use the toilet
Tomasz, his wife and their young children have been living in a shed in the garden of an emergency hostel in Ilford since losing their home.
Despite the father-of-two working long hours as a maintenance worker, the family were priced out of private renting and evicted from their previous property in August.
Their hostel room is cramped, there is no internet access and the bathroom is broken. As a result, the family’s only choice is to travel to the main building to use the shared bathroom, which scares the kids when they have to go out at night in the dark. Often the shared facilities are also overcrowded.
READ MORE:Mum and 3 kids ‘forced to sleep in car’ after refusing flat 140 miles from London
Tomasz described how “everything is a challenge”, explaining: “In the room, the main difficulty is the lack of space. A lot of the time the kids have to sit on the bed to eat and everything is in boxes.
“Schoolwork is such a difficulty. A lot of school homework needs internet, but we don’t have WiFi. I contacted the school and told them what was happening, so the kids don’t get in trouble.
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“Everything is a challenge. Last week I had to wait until 11 o’clock before I could make breakfast as there are so many people queuing up to use the facilities.”
This family makes up only four of the nearly 170,000 people who are currently homeless in London. And Tomasz’s young children are just two of the more than 86,000 kids in the capital who do not have a home.
Shelter revealed these bleak findings today (December 9), adding that the figures are likely to be underestimated due to limited reporting and undocumented types of homelessness such as sofa surfing.
It concluded that at least one in every 53 Londoners are either sleeping rough on any given night or living in temporary accommodation. Most of the latter are families – just like Tomasz’s.
The father-of-two described his family’s situation as “so stressful and depressing”, saying: “This Christmas I’m telling the kids that Santa will still be able to find them.
“I’m trying to make it better by putting up a small Christmas tree on the shelf and a Christmas light in the window. I want to try and make it as normal as possible but it’s so stressful and depressing.”
And situations like that of Tomasz’s family are not expected to improve anytime soon.
In fact, Shelter has warned that soaring living costs combined with a likely tough Winter ahead and the removal of Covid protections such as the boost to Universal Credit and the eviction ban could throw thousands more across the country into homelessness.
Cllr Darren Rodwell, London Councils’ Executive Member for Housing & Planning, commented: “London is the epicentre of the homelessness crisis. The combination of high housing costs and the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on London’s economy means we face the highest homelessness rates in the country.
“Boroughs are doing all we can to support homeless Londoners but we need urgent action from the government. Ministers must ensure the welfare system prevents homelessness from occurring in the first place and we need far more investment in affordable housing.”
Shelter has already been inundated with calls to its emergency helpline, hearing from people who are facing a night on the streets in freezing conditions after being turned away from emergency accommodation, as well as thousands of families sharing beds and communal facilities in grim hostel rooms.
Polly Neate, chief executive of the charity, said: “It is shameful that 170,000 people in London are without a home, and with Covid protections now gone thousands more will be joining them. A shoddy hostel room or a freezing cold doorway is no place to wake up on Christmas morning, but sadly so many people will.”
To donate to Shelter’s Winter Appeal and help give thousands of people fighting homelessness the urgent support, security and hope they need in the tough months ahead, visit shelter.org.uk/donate .
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