Readers' Letters

Editor’s comment: Family’s Christmas in temporary accommodation shows why Theresa May is wrong about homelessness

PUBLISHED: 10:17 28 December 2017 | UPDATED: 11:34 28 December 2017

The family's room in the hostel serves as bedroom, kitchen and living room for three people - soon to be four.

The family's room in the hostel serves as bedroom, kitchen and living room for three people - soon to be four.


Terrifyingly, it’s a year since the Gazette launched its Hidden Homeless campaign.

The family's cramped hostel room. The family's cramped hostel room.

I wrote at the time that our (immediate) goal was not to end the scourge of families trapped in unsuitable temporary accommodation for long periods of time, but to shine a light on this often invisible problem.

It’s in that spirit that we have, sadly, cause to run a story on this week’s front page that could have come out of that campaign: the case of a young family whose toddler son is sleeping on the floor surrounded by mouse droppings and has no space to learn to walk, and whose second child will spend his or her first two months with three other people in a box room that functions as bedroom, kitchen and laundry.

This family’s story isn’t unique: it is the reality for thousands of people in Hackney and many more across the UK. There isn’t enough social housing, councils can’t borrow enough to build more, and people are being driven into poverty between the pillars of soaring housing costs and welfare cuts.

On Wednesday last week, Theresa May rounded on an MP for saying there were 2,500 homeless children in her constituency. She told Rosena Allin-Khan (Tooting, Labour): “Families with children who are accepted as homeless will be provided with accommodation.”

But having a roof over your head does not mean you are not homeless. Our campaign, and our front page, lay that truth bare.

The family we spoke to for this story are still living in Hackney – but others have been moved miles away from their support networks, schools, friends, jobs.

The bottom line is this: the housing system is in crisis, more so than ever. And too frequently temporary accommodation is neither temporary nor, in many cases, acceptable.

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