Call for investigation after vulnerable young people left without running water for months

Christian Action Housing and Thames Water play blame game over long-running issues at Enfield Foyer in Edmonton Green, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

Enfield Foyer (credit Google)
Enfield Foyer (credit Google)

A local MP is calling for an investigation after residents in an Edmonton Green housing block said they were left without water for months.

People living in Enfield Foyer, in Fore Street, reported being unable to shower, wash their clothes or flush their toilets when the water supply to the building failed last winter.

Now they are hoping to get compensation but say social landlord Christian Action Housing and Thames Water are blaming each other for the problems.

Enfield Foyer houses 36 young people aged between 18 and 24 who are homeless or are at risk of homelessness.

One resident said she had endured “a horrible couple of months”. She told the Local Democracy Reporting Service she had to use her Universal Credit money to pay for hotels during the Christmas period so she could have a shower, as she doesn’t have family in the area.

She added: “Very vulnerable people who have been through lots of things have been put into depression again. It is not fair.”

The resident said that when the problems started in November, Christian Action Housing “did say something” about compensation, but she had not heard anything since then.

“It was bad,” another resident said. “They basically told us they were going to get somewhere, just another building or something to help us get showers and stuff. They told us where it was – the public swimming pool – but they only did that towards the end, when the water was coming back on.

“Some people in the building are homeless and had to stay home […] A lot of women were having their monthly cycle and couldn’t do anything about it. Then a woman brought us water bottles and a bucket to clean – but that was later.

“They were leaving us with nothing. Key workers in the building could not go to the toilet – they couldn’t flush it.”

A third resident said: “Washing machines were not working, nothing was working – you can imagine the chaos.

“I’m not dirty. I like to shower two times a day and have the opportunity to have three – not have to go to a friend’s house to shower and wash my clothes. I don’t pay bills for no reason.”

The residents said they believed the cause of the problem was linked to the fact that water tanks were at the top of the building when they should be at the ground floor or basement. They said they were told tanks would be fitted in the basement, but that did not happen.

Before the water problems struck in winter, they said water had also been cut off last summer. And only last weekend there were further problems with the supply, with some residents reporting a complete outage and others saying they had cold water only.

Edmonton MP Kate Osamor said: “Both Thames Water and Christian Action Housing Association have failed residents and should be held to account.

“I’m shocked that residents have been offered no rent relief or compensation despite having been forced to live without access to water conditions for months on end. This is a serious incident which the Housing Ombudsman and [water regulator] Ofwat should investigate urgently.”

In a statement, Christian Action Housing said the “disruption” to the water supply was down to “many factors”. It said the issues started in August 2022 when Thames Water reduced the water pressure in response to the national hosepipe ban, and when further issues were reported in November last year it worked with Thames Water to rectify them.

The statement adds: “When we noticed that the water issues were not rectified following internal repairs being carried out, Christian Action strongly advocated for Thames Water to increase the water pressure going into the building; this was increased on the 16th December 2022, and the issue was resolved.”

Some residents dispute this, however, saying the issues lasted over the Christmas period and beyond – even as long as April.

The housing association said that when residents reported an “intermittent water supply” they were given bottled water and “other relevant supplies”. It added that the current problem is down to a “separate issue” – a “failing water pump”.

The statement says the association is continuing to supply bottled water, and residents can access shower facilities and a laundrette in a separate building. It continues: “Once the situation has been resolved, we will confirm the compensation payment award to residents in line with our compensation policy.”

A Thames Water spokesperson said: “We’re sorry to hear about the issues the residents have been facing, however this is an internal property issue.

“Our engineers have attended multiple callouts for this site, the most recent in August and June. They found and confirmed there were no issues with flow or pressure at the property boundary when they conducted their checks.”

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