Enfield family living in hotel for over a year say they have ‘no hope’

The Rembikowski family have now been stuck in various Travelodge hotels for 14 months since being made homeless by a house fire, reports James Cracknell

Borehamwood Travelodge and (inset) the Rembikowski family
Borehamwood Travelodge and (inset) the Rembikowski family

An Enfield family remain stuck living in a hotel more than a year after they were made homeless when their house was destroyed by fire.

The Rembikowski family, whose plight was first reported by the Dispatch in April, were moved this summer to a Travelodge hotel in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, after spending several months at Enfield Travelodge on the A10 and having a brief stay at Whetstone Travelodge in Barnet.

Piotr Rembikowski lives with wife Magda, sons Alan and Natan, aged 15 and 20, plus dog Apollo, in two rooms at the Borehamwood hotel, where they have been since late July. The family declared themselves homeless with Enfield Council after their Palmers Green bungalow was destroyed in a blaze in August 2022.

The council has now told the family they are “not a priority” for social housing despite Piotr’s disability, and has advised them to search for a new home in the private rental sector instead.

But Piotr told the Dispatch this week that they can only afford one-bed properties, even outside London, and that many of these are unsuitable because he uses a wheelchair.

Being forced to move to Borehamwood has also created additional problems with accessing local services, especially Alan who has struggled to restart his education.

“They are trying to push me into the private sector,” Piotr explained. “I received an email from them saying I was found not to be in priority need for social housing.

“I am looking everywhere for properties but with my income they say I can only get a one-bed flat – how can I live there with my whole family? I am looking outside London because it is cheaper but it still is not cheap enough.

“I tell them [estate agents] I have a wheelchair and a German shepherd and then they don’t accept me.”

Magda works in central London and now has to commute for two hours each way from Borehamwood. Because they have been placed in a third-floor room, Piotr has sometimes been unable to leave the hotel.

Piotr continued: “I have a very small room now [in the hotel] – the shower room has a bench and I had an accident where the bench broke and I had to go to hospital overnight.

“After three days they moved me to a different hotel room but now I am on the third floor and the lift keeps breaking down – when it happens I can’t get out of the hotel, it is like being arrested.”

A spike in homelessness over the last year, with Enfield now having the highest no-fault eviction rate in London, has led the council to place hundreds of families in bed and breakfast (B&B) style accommodation, with many holed up at hotels such as Enfield Travelodge for months.

The Rembikowski family rejected a council suggestion of moving to Manchester because of the disruption it would cause to Magda’s work and Alan’s education, while Piotr feared a flat they were offered in a Ponders End tower block would be too difficult for him to escape in the event of a fire. An “interim” housing solution was recently suggested but would have involved Piotr living on his own.

Piotr has been using a wheelchair for 18 months, ever since he lost movement in his legs after an accident falling down stairs on a bus. He was also diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2009, a lifelong condition affecting the digestive system, and was recently also diagnosed with depression.

Piotr used to work as a carpenter but was forced to give up his career. He added: “Enfield Council is not picking up the phone. They say it is not their problem. It so hard, we have no hope.”

Update (12th October):

A council spokesperson said: “Enfield Council is committed to enabling everyone to access a stable, secure and decent home and to minimise the use of temporary accommodation. In this case, we are exploring a number of avenues to find the Rembikowski family suitable accommodation.

“Unfortunately, the supply of adapted or adaptable homes is extremely limited and exceptionally difficult. We have agreed to maintain weekly contact with Mr Rembikowski and will continue to direct the family to additional support such as the Housing Access Service.” 

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