‘Every family deserves to have a home, somewhere they can not only feel safe, but thrive. But for over 275,000 families in England without a home this is not the case. Families are having to raise children in mouldy, damp, unsafe conditions that parents hope their children forget.
I was one of those parents.
My name is Sireena, and for four years my son and I were homeless, dumped in temporary accommodation through no fault of our own.
Throughout those four years I wrote a journal, I guess as a way of coping, but also recording the terrible experience. I have shared some of what I wrote below so you can get a first-hand account of what temporary accommodation is truly like. An experience I hope my son will forget.
Throughout the whole time, Shelter was by my side. They never stopped fighting for us – I’ll never forget that.
Our landlord’s decided to repossess the flat – and there’s nothing else I can afford. So here I am, dumped by the council in temporary accommodation.
I can’t believe this is the solution for me and my 11-year-old son, Ethan. One room that’s so tiny there’s a path of maybe a foot walking around the bed. Oh, and there’s no drinking water in the whole building. I’m sure that’s not legal.
The council’s given me a number to call with complaints, but no one picks up. We’ve been dumped here, ignored and are quickly being forgotten.
In the last couple of years, I’ve been made to feel that I’m in the wrong for wanting to live somewhere with water.
For wanting basic human rights.
But finally, that’s changing. I’ve been put in touch with Shelter, who came to visit, spoke to the council on my behalf, filed a complaint… and as a result we’ve been moved! Our new place is still temporary accommodation, but at least it has two bedrooms.
This place might have space, but it’s also very damp. And as the weather gets colder, mould is spreading fast.
Ethan’s had to move out of his bedroom because of the mould. My chest and sinuses are really bad.
But again, I’m getting nowhere with the council.
I’ve called my support worker at Shelter – I call him ‘My Kevin’ – and he’s buying a damp reader so that we can take some readings and prove my case.
I’m still being ignored by the council, but Kevin is still there by my side.
He makes complaints and phone calls. He comes to visit to check up on conditions.
Having Shelter there has shown me two things. One: that I matter. Two: the way we’ve been living just isn’t right.
After years of uncertainty, we’re finally in our own two-bed social home. It’s safe. Secure. Ours.
But what we’ve been through has taken its toll.
The day we moved in I said to Ethan, ‘this is our home’ and he turned round and said, ‘but someone could take it from us.’
I told him no; this is permanent, and no one can take it from us. But it’s so sad that’s what he thought would happen.
Affordable social homes are so important to give more families a happy, healthy life. I’m so thankful to have had Shelter there with me throughout my long journey out of temporary accommodation, but what society needs is the government to build more social housing.
Home is a human right. It’s fundamental – if you have a home, you have the foundation of life.’
Families like Sireena’s must not be forgotten.
Sireena and her son Ethan now have a safe, affordable home. But thousands more families remain trapped in accommodation that’s putting their health at risk.
Three in four households in temporary accommodation report poor conditions, with one in five living in accommodation with a safety hazard, like faulty wiring.
It’s a lack of safe, affordable social housing that’s causing so many families to be forced into unsafe temporary accommodation. The government must act. Now.
We’ll use your gift to continue doing all we can to influence government and create positive change. And together we won’t stop pushing until our broken system is fixed, for everyone.
Every day, I see our supporters generosity in action.Darayus Bharucha, Housing Rights Worker for East London Family Service
‘Shelter supporters are with me every time I make a call on behalf of someone like Sireena. In every complaint I file. Every day, we stand side by side with forgotten families and say to our government: enough is enough.
None of this work would be possible without supporters like you. Thank you so much for supporting Shelter.’