Louise* (*not her real name) lives in a small two bedroom property with her daughters.
Currently, only the living room and bedrooms have heating. The family are relying on fan heaters for the kitchen and outside lean-to – which contains the only toilet. This means her heating and gas bills are extraordinarily high.
She knew the property had no central heating when she viewed it, but the Council promised to repair this by the time she moved.
When you view a property you don’t have much time, so I felt pressure to accept. It took the Council 2 years to install heating after we moved, and this is still only in the living room and bedrooms.
There are lots of other problems, like damp and dust from the layers of wallpaper. One of my daughters has fractured her ankle because there is no stair-rail. I struggle to cook because there is not much kitchen space.
I don’t invite anyone to our house. I slap on a smile and keep it all in when people are around.
Mostly I don’t feel like I’m living, I’m just existing.
Louise* mentions viewing a property and the pressure she felt to accept the offer. Viewings often aren’t very long – Louise* says hers was about 10 minutes.
When people are given an offer of a property by the Council, they are advised always to accept the offer. This is because not doing so may result in them being deemed ‘intentionally homeless‘. In such a case, the Council can discharge their duty to house someone and they can be removed from the housing register.
This can put families under a lot of stress when they are offered housing that is outside of the area (it is not uncommon for housing to be over an hour away from a family’s work or school) or even the city.
In 2017/2018, 103 homelessness applications in Newham were rejected on the basis of intentional homelessness (Local Authority Homelessness Statistics).