Hackney South MP: ‘Homeless housing cases are worst I’ve seen in 20 years’
PUBLISHED: 08:00 01 July 2016
The MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch has said cases of homelessness in the borough are “the worst they’ve ever been” in her 20 year political career.
Meg Hillier MP has spoken out about “a new temporary housing scandal” which has resulted in families and vulnerable people being placed into large and often unsuitable hostel accommodation.
She said some mothers are giving birth and being forced to return home to a single family room in a hostel.
The MP told the Gazette: “Twenty years ago the scandal of homeless families living in bed and breakfast hotels was rightly called out by local and national government and it came to an end.
“But increasingly we are seeing a new temporary housing scandal which is putting young families and vulnerable single people into large hostels with, often, shared facilities and unsuitable for children.”
Her comments came following the shocking death of a homeless man at the Shuttleworth Hostel in Hackney’s Well Street earlier this month.
Joseph Coughlin’s decomposing body was found on June 15 and his room had not been checked for at least three days before his corpse was discovered.
The 44-year-old had lived at the privately-owned hostel since January.
Ms Hillier said: “Even four years ago a hostel was usually a short term ‘solution’. The council would work to get families into temporary housing or a secure tenancy as quickly as possible.
“But more recently these brief stays have stretched to over a year in many cases.
“Hackney Council, like many others in London, cannot find homes for families with rents at a level which will be covered by housing benefit.
“And a period in a hostel can make it difficult to hold down a job and access a private rented home.
“In my 20 years of elected office the housing cases I am dealing with are the worst they’ve ever been.
“Some of the most heartbreaking cases are families in hostels. Imagine giving birth and returning ‘home’ to a single family room in a hostel. This is a reality.
“Hostels like the Shuttleworth charge tenants rents – often very high for the quality of accommodation provided. No-one would wish to live there long term but many people have no choice.
“The quality is a concern and the cost is in my view too high. The only long term answer is for more homes to be built.”
The Gazette went behind closed doors at the Shuttleworth hostel last week 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.
Councils, including Hackney, Islington and Tower Hamlets, place people in need of urgent temporary accommodation at the hostel and pay up to £252 a week for a single bedroom.
Shuttleworth hostel manager Ola Ayeni said: “The accommodation is licensed and meets all House of Multiple Occupation (HMO) specific property standards, including space standards and amenities provision, and this is confirmed by mandatory inspections by the council environmental health and HMO teams.
“We also have a rigorous schedule of both internal and contractor checks to maintain property standards and ensure we are fully health and safety complaint at all times.”