Hostel families told to move to Yorkshire amid ‘massive’ housing shortage
Nine families now remain living in England’s Lane hostel
21 January, 2021 — By Bronwen Weatherby
“What’s going on here feels like social cleansing to me”
WOMEN and children living in a hostel soon to be shut say they are being forced out of the area with rehoming offers as far away as Yorkshire.
Nine families still remain at the England’s Lane hostel in Belsize Park, with 135 already having been moved on.
Camden Council has chosen not to renew its lease on the property, owned by Swedish property giant Akelius, which ends in March.
Those that remain say they have reached a “deadlock” with the local authority over “inappropriate offers” of alternative housing.
Several have now received letters warning them the council has applied to the courts for possession orders, and that if they do not move out in the allotted time they could be forcibly evicted.
“They treat you like you’re a box they can just move from one place to another”
Anna, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, remains at the hostel as does her nine-year-old son with whom she has had to share a room and a bed for two-and-a-half years.
She said: “I’ve been pushed for months to take a place outside of Camden, like Southend-on-Sea and Enfield, the closest has been Hackney.
“Other women have given up in the end and taken places as far away as Yorkshire and Wolverhampton but I don’t want to leave, my son was born here, he goes to school here, my support system is here.”
She added: “I’ve been told I’ll be taken off the housing list, be made homeless.”
Another said she had been offered homes in Bradford and Harrogate in Yorkshire which she refused, before accepting one in Northwood, in north-west London – only to then be told the property had gone to another person.
Vanessa King, 36, and her daughter Allanah have lived in the hostel for three years. “I understand there’s a limited amount of housing but what’s going on here feels like social cleansing to me. It’s disgusting. Most women had fled domestic abuse and I just keep thinking: is this how local authorities treat vulnerable women?”
Terminating the lease on the hostel will save the council £1million
Tahira Garabayla, another resident at the hostel, said: “I don’t want to leave Camden because my son is here, but they treat you like you’re a box they can just move from one place to another without having an effect.”
The Town Hall hopes to save around £1million from ending the lease and wants to spend £16m renovating two hostels being redeveloped in Camden Road and Chester Road.
Camden’s housing chief Cllr Meric Apak said: “England’s Lane Hostel in my opinion has not been suitable for our homeless families for a while now. We are reinvesting this saving in better accommodation for our homeless families.
“I understand the offers the council are making to the remaining nine families are better than the conditions in England’s Lane, and we are at pains to listen and respond to any of their concerns.
“However, due to the extremely high demand for our limited supply of social housing, we were not always able to guarantee all homeless households an offer under our allocations scheme.”
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