Since the devastating fire at Grenfell Tower, Shelter’s staff have been working to help those affected and ensure that homeless families are rehoused swiftly in the local area. Our adviser Kristi has been working on the ground all week and shares her experiences below.
When you get near to Grenfell Tower and the surrounding area you see flowers and vigils lining the streets, posters of the people who are missing made by their families and classmates. So many faces, and so many of them so young – it’s heart-breaking.
Right now, Shelter’s priority is to listen to the community and work with local agencies to support all those who have been affected by the fire – those who lived in the tower and those who live near it, and to make sure we do that in the most helpful way.
To provide this support, Shelter London has been working with local partners North Kensington Law Centre, Kensington Citizens Advice bureau and the Housing Law Practitioners Association to provide advice for people in the local area; housing lawyers from across the community have pledged their time free of charge.
Everyone’s situation is different. Some people are telling us they are struggling as they’ve been placed in high rise hotels, and when they’ve just been through such a traumatic disaster in a tower block, the last place they want to be is in another tower block. Many are unsure of how long they’re staying in the hotels they’ve been placed in, and don’t know how to find out more.
In some instances, we’ve seen there’s been an attempt to house families and neighbours together but people are telling us that they feel very isolated and distressed, holed away in hotel rooms across west London. We’re glad the authorities are making efforts to rehouse people locally, and we will work with our partners to ensure that they keep this promise to the community.
But it isn’t just the residents of Grenfell who need advice. People in the surrounding blocks have been evacuated too and placed in emergency accommodation. They have no idea when it will be safe for them to return.
Kristi Rocha, Shelter housing advisor
Our team is working hard to advise people of their rights, connect with any help that’s available, and advocate on their behalf if necessary. Our London advice line is also open on 0344 515 1540 for anyone who wants advice about housing in London more generally. Since the fire broke out we’ve extended the opening hours from 8am until 8pm, and we’re seeing people at advice surgeries across London just like we do every week.