London Road stories: Homeless and helpless

How long did it take for the council to help families made homeless by 8/8 arson?

The latest tale of woe in the treatment of some of the victims of the 8/8 riots involves a family who lost their home. They have asked not to be named, but their story has been verified and is just as saddening – and infuriating – as earlier examples of the council’s mishandling

We have all heard Croydon Council’s promise that assistance would be given to those who suffered in the riots. In some cases, it remains to be seen what they mean by “assistance”.

There is a family whose flat in London Road went up in flames. The father, who works at East Croydon station, his wife and three young children lost everything. They have been taken in over the past three weeks by a relative. It is better than being on the street, or in a local B&B… but far from ideal.

The day after the riots, he went to Croydon Council to ask for help in re-housing his family. At Taberner House, the council employees told him that as he was working, he wasn’t entitled to any help. They suggested he goes to housing agencies and rents another private place.

“How am I supposed to find the money for a deposit?” he asked. The council’s answer was effectively “not our problem”.

That first week was extremely stressful for our homeless resident. He was still expected to go in to work – after all, he did not want to lose his job as well. But all dealings with the council had to be done  in person – his mobile phone charger had been one of his family’s possessions to have been lost in the fire.

Our man tried contacting his local councillors. They spoke to the council’s housing department on his family’s behalf. Now the council suggested, “If you get private accommodation, we will cover the first few weeks of rent and a deposit to help.”

A breakthrough. Or maybe not. After more than a week of his family of five sleeping on their relative’s sofas and floor, our man could not find any housing agency that would take them on. Why? What had they done wrong? They were victims of the rioters and the arsonists.

Habitable?

The problem for our homeless family was that every agency they contacted said that they refused to deal with Croydon Council because of its poor record in paying deposits and rents in a timely manner.

So our homeless family went back to the council again to plead with Croydon to provide some emergency accommodation. But Croydon said they won’t provide accommodation because, as the flat wasn’t razed to the ground, so “it might be possible to make it habitable again”.

Yet contractors and the fire brigade had already confirmed that the property was burned, wrecked and ruined. All the flats around had been completely destroyed, and the chances are that the whole block would have to be demolished – including the flat that Croydon believed might be “habitable again”.

With only the clothes on their back, this family has been forced to rely on friends and family, without any assistance from their caring council over the course of two weeks following the riots.

#proudtoserve

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About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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