Grim reality of Christmas in a tiny, infested Homerton hostel room for homeless family expecting their second child

The family's cramped hostel room.

The family's cramped hostel room. - Credit: Archant

A couple expecting their second child are spending Christmas in a cramped hostel room where their 15-month-old son sleeps on the floor.

The child's makeshift bed on the floor.

The child's makeshift bed on the floor. - Credit: Archant

The family, who have asked not to be named, are among 3,000 homeless people in Hackney seeing in the new year in temporary accommodation.

They were made homeless in May and placed in a hostel in Homerton. But with no room for a cot, their son is having to sleep on a makeshift bed between the window and a radiator.

Social workers and doctors have told housing chiefs the room poses a significant risk to the growing family and they need to be moved – but the council says it will be three months before it can find them anywhere. The baby is due in January.

“This is the only year that I haven’t looked forward to Christmas and New Year,” said the father. “But hey, I’d rather look on the brighter side and be thankful I’m not on the streets.

The family's room in the hostel serves as bedroom, kitchen and living room for three people - soon t

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

“Our room is no bigger than a box room. The tight space makes it a safety hazard for my son as he is just learning how to walk.

“To make things worse the room is heavily infested with mice and the council have done four treatments without success.”

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He also said he felt let down by the town hall due to repeated emails and voicemails going unanswered. He said he would have missed the deadline for his successful homeless application appeal had he not pestered officers to send files to his solicitor.

“I’ve been neglected and treated like a second-class citizen,” he added.

The family's room in the hostel.

The family's room in the hostel. - Credit: Archant

There are six other families in the hostel, and hundreds more in the same situation across Hackney. The couple have been told that when they do get a home, it will likely be outside Hackney and could be outside London altogether.

Last month, council officers said this was the grim reality now facing many of Hackney’s homeless families because of the spiralling cost of rents in the borough.

“I’m born and bred in Hackney,” said the father. “I was doing quite well in life. I had my own takeaway business in Rainham [London’s easternmost point] but the house was damp and so we moved to Colchester. But then I was having to travel long hours to work and I got into some debt.

“My wife has really bad anxiety and depression and now my son is sleeping on the floor next to mouse droppings. I’m ashamed.”

Housing chief Cllr Rebecca Rennison said: “We always listen to individual circumstances and have worked closely with [the father] to provide temporary accommodation for his family within Hackney – despite huge increases in demand meaning we now have 3,000 households in temporary accommodation waiting for a permanent home.

“While we are determined to do all we can to support and meet the needs of homeless families as best we can, this is yet another example of London’s unprecedented housing crisis and the national government’s continued failure to tackle this.”