Hackney Green Party call for investigation into homeless hostels after man’s death
PUBLISHED: 08:00 04 July 2016
Hackney Green Party has called for an independent investigation into ‘outrageous’ prices charged by some privately-owned homeless hostels following the death of a man this month.
The decomposing body of Joseph Coughlin, 44, was found in his room at the privately-run Shuttleworth hostel in Hackney on June 15. His room had not been checked for three days.
Councils pay up to £252 a week to house people in tiny single bedrooms at the Shuttleworth and the hostel, and others like it, have come under fire for the steep rates they charge.
Samir Jeraj, organiser of Hackney Green Party, said: “It is outrageous that the council is paying £225 a week, per person, to be housed in places like the Shutteworth hostel with little or no support.
“Homeless people are some of the most vulnerable in our society, and they need help and support to get back on their feet.
“It is appalling that they are being put into conditions such as those exposed by the Gazette last week - bedbugs, infestation, and the basic lack of care shown to residents including a dead body being left undiscovered for three days.
“We cannot allow the most desperate and vulnerable to be exploited and put at risk.
“One of the most striking things about the current housing crisis is how a small number of people are making huge profits by squeezing the most at need.
“Hackney needs to look at the hostels it is sending people to. Are they decent? How long are people staying there? Are they getting the help they need?
But in order for the public to have trust in the council again, this needs to be an independent investigation, and a public report.”
The Shuttleworth has defended its rates saying they include “utility bills at the property, council tax, free breakfast, 24 hour reception, subsidised on-site laundry, free wi-fi in the communal area and shared computer, and free use of the reception phone for official calls during working hours, amongst a host of other facilities and services”.
The Gazette went behind closed doors at the Shuttleworth hostel in the wake of the death to reveal shocking conditions.
Inside we found cramped rooms, some rife with bed bugs, that are barely the width of two single beds and residents expected to share small communal kitchen, shower and toilet facilities.
The Shuttleworth’s management insist it meets all regulations governing temporary accommodation.
Hostel manager Ola Ayeni said: “Our responsibilities as an unsupported temporary accommodation provider are to provide a secure, clean premises in a good state of repair, and follow internal procedures in relation to any housing management functions, anti-social behaviour, complaints and so on.
“We do not provide specialist support but again liaise with the relevant professionals and have robust procedures to manage a range of issues on site.
“Where residents’ needs are found to be too high and we are not able to manage them at the accommodation, we ask for them to be relocated to more suitable accommodation where they can receive the support they require.”
Hackney Council says regular inspections are carried out at the Shuttleworth hostel.
Cllr Philip Glanville, cabinet member for housing, said: “The sad death at Shuttleworth Hotel is both troubling, and alongside the concerns expressed by some residents, serves to highlight the challenges faced by those in housing need and the difficulties we face in responding to the housing crisis.
“The council inspected the hostel in May where it was rated, against London guidelines, as satisfactory.
“We also undertook another inspection on Wednesday, June 29 in light of what happened, to see what else we can do and we will be working with other councils using the hostel, and local police, to find out what can be improved.
“I will be writing to all residents placed in the hostel by Hackney to let them know how to contact me or the council for support.”