Last month, our partner IKEA launched their ‘Real Life Roomsets’ campaign in four of their stores: Hammersmith, Bristol, Warrington and Birmingham.
Each set recreated the temporary accommodation of local families to help raise awareness of the scale of homelessness, and the unfit living conditions that so many are forced to endure, and often for months on end.
Each room highlighted the cramped, dangerous, and unfit spaces that an increasing number of families who are experiencing homelessness are forced to experience when living in temporary accommodation. The IKEA store roomsets, which are a stark contrast to the retailer’s typical stylised showrooms, told the story of the local families whose experience informed the room. These are their stories.
Sam’s story, shown in IKEA Hammersmith
Sam became homeless after her relationship broke down, and she and her three young children were placed in a hostel room like this roomset. Concerned about her safety, she moved out, sleeping in a car for seven weeks while her children stayed with a friend.
Finally, she was given new accommodation which was no better than the first. There was black mould everywhere and a lingering smell of cannabis. There was a hole in the door where the letterbox should have been, and on two occasions, she was assaulted while living there. Worst of all, Sam was separated from her three children yet again because her temporary accommodation was an hour and forty minutes away from their school. The constant upheavals and separation tested the resilience of the family.
After working with the council, Sam finally found a private rental and was reunited with her children at Christmas. But she worries about the long-term impact of living in temporary accommodation.
Kate’s story, represented in IKEA Bristol
A qualified nurse and teacher, Kate became homeless when she lost her job during the pandemic. She moved into a room like this with her 24-year-old daughter after someone set fire to the tent they had been living in.
’It’s like a nightmare we can’t wake up from,’ says Kate.
The room was dirty, as though it had never been cleaned. The carpets were stained, and the curtains were falling off the rails. There was no kitchen, microwave, or fridge so they had to often survive on noodles. Sometimes they’d skip meals because it made their stomachs hurt.
To make things worse, some of the other residents were aggressive. And as someone who’d experienced domestic violence in the past, Kate felt particularly vulnerable.
Channah’s story, represented in IKEA Warrington
Channah became homeless after being served a no-fault eviction notice that meant she had to leave her private rental. Channah and her three daughters were forced to live in a single room like this.
Channah had to sleep on a pull-out mattress while her daughters shared the bunk beds. The space, or lack of it, had a detrimental effect on everyone. Channah’s 16-year-old daughter struggled at school. Jasmine, the eldest daughter had nowhere to study and was forced to sit on the toilet while preparing for her exams. The bathroom was cold making her feet go numb and the mould exacerbated her asthma. As if this weren’t enough, the family had to put up with constant invasions of privacy and had their belongings searched by strangers.
Claire’s story, represented in IKEA Birmingham
Homeless after escaping an abusive relationship, Claire and her three young children lived in a hostel that looked like this.
‘When we got in there we were hit with this bad smell. It was like farm animals had lived there, says Claire. ’My 10-year-old son burst out crying.’
The cupboards were broken, the wallpaper was peeling off and her one-year-old baby was crawling on a dirty floor. There were bloodstains on the mattress and let’s not even talk about the state of the bathroom.
Left without a place to put her children safely to sleep, Claire had no choice but to send her children back to live with their father while she moved into her car.
Delivering change with IKEA
These stories of dangerous, cramped, and unfit temporary accommodation are all too common. Almost 100,000 families are stuck in similar accommodations like this – often for years on end – simply because they have nowhere else to go. We desperately need more truly affordable homes to end homelessness for good. The solution is simple: build more social housing.
As part of our new long-term partnership, IKEA has joined forces with Shelter to highlight this issue and call on the government to build 90,000 new social homes a year to address the housing emergency.
Over the course of our partnership, as well as working to create systemic change to address the housing emergency, IKEA and Shelter will launch a series of initiatives to help those affected by the housing emergency in IKEA’s local communities and beyond, aiming to increase access to support and opportunities.
Find out more about this campaign and our partnership at IKEA.co.uk/Shelter