Millions around the country were shocked when they saw a television news report last night which showed the appalling – and dangerous – conditions tenants in a council-owned block in South Norwood have had to endure for months. Here, the young mum at the centre of the TV report, FRANSOY HEWITT, tells her story in her own words
I have been living in Croydon with my two children as a council tenant in a one-bedroom ground floor flat in a tower block in South Norwood for the last seven years.
My contract with Croydon Council says “temporary accommodation”, but seven years doesn’t feel very temporary.
The flat wasn’t perfect when I moved in and we had problems with mould and damp which I reported to the council. But at the start of the coronavirus lockdown last year, it began to get worse. Water started dripping through the ceiling in the kitchen and the living room and wouldn’t stop.
I rang the council and asked for help, telling them I had a leak and mould problem. Even slugs were appearing in my kitchen.
However, Croydon Council has ignored me despite countless efforts of pleading for help.
The slugs seem to have made a happier home in my flat that me and my children can.
We can’t get rid of them and they have infested every room.
It’s not surprising really – slugs like damp, wet environments and on some days my flat feels like a dark, dank jungle.
In 2020, the bathroom light had to be disconnected because of the water coming from it, and so I had to light the way for my children with a torch.
My son slipped on the floor once and hurt his foot. My other child asks me, “Mummy, why is the water coming?”
Since lockdown there has been no escape and my stress levels and feelings of anxiety and depression have been running high.
The leaks started to get worse in the autumn and are still happening now. They are everywhere and have affected every room – the kitchen, living room and bathroom have just become swamps.
The only room that is even a bit comfortable is the bedroom, where I can close the door and pretend that it is raining outside. When I am in there, I try to forget about the rest of the flat, but it’s hard.
This month I had a surveyor come and look at the flat. He told me, “If you had got the Fire Service out, they would have shut this flat down.”
He told me that me and my children were in danger of being electrocuted in the bathroom because of the water running down the wall and past the light switch. I am scared to touch the wall now – and scared my children might touch it without me seeing.
I never look forward to coming home, as the outside feels warmer and more welcoming than the flat. Can you imagine walking into your house and all you can smell is mould and damp – and then you look at the dirty, yellow water dripping from your ceiling on to your head and skin?
I can’t even sit down in my living room if I wanted to – because the water has destroyed all my furniture, which is also covered in dark mould.
I honestly thought that after Grenfell that councils would have done better and ensured they don’t make the same mistakes with their tenants. Yet here we are with a similar situation with Croydon Council, because I ask and I beg for help but I get nowhere.
History shows us that our rights to decent homes don’t make the top of their agenda – until someone dies. And then it’s only on the agenda for a few days, until the news moves on.
I don’t understand how it can be happening. Is it because Croydon is bankrupt?
Or because they just don’t care? Where is their compassion, their integrity, their humanity?
I don’t know the answers to these questions. I just hope the council moves me out before me or my children are badly hurt – or worse.
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