The Dispatch has spoken to a mother-of-three forced to leave temporary housing by Enfield Council less than a week before Christmas
An Enfield mother-of-three has spoken of her despair at being forced on to the streets less than one week before Christmas.
Freda and her children aged six, four and one were evicted last week from their temporary accommodation in Curlew House, Ponders End, because of Alma Estate’s ongoing redevelopment and the longstanding plans to demolish the block.
The family were initially put up by Enfield Council in the Travelodge hotel on the A10, much like hundreds of other families over the last year amid an acute shortage of available temporary housing.
However, in an attempt to bring down the numbers of homeless families in temporary accommodation, the council has begun a new policy of offering them housing in far-flung places around England – and also taking a more “hardline” approach by discharging its legal duty to house these families if they refuse to move.
Freda and her children were this week offered a place in Telford, Shropshire, which is 145 miles away. But Freda refused the move because she said she had never been to Telford, did not know anyone there, and would not have the support of her local church.
Freda told the Dispatch: “I don’t have any links to Telford. I have health problems so sometimes I need help to look after the kids. I was in A&E the other night. Who would look after my kids if I am in Telford and have no-one I can call?”
After refusing the move to Telford, the council told her that it was “discharging its duty” to house her, meaning it no longer had a legal obligation to put a roof over her head.
Before the housing crisis in Enfield escalated this year, the council’s policy was to make at least two temporary housing offers to homeless families before discharging its duty. It also previously had a policy of housing families within close proximity to Enfield borough and had even pledged in 2019 to end out-of-borough moves for local families altogether – but agreed in June this year to begin sending families outside the south-east of England.
Since being evicted from her hotel on Wednesday (20th), five days before Christmas, Freda has been staying at an emergency shelter in Enfield Wash, but has nowhere to go with her kids during the day and has to roam the streets.
When she spoke to the Dispatch yesterday (Thursday 21st), Freda was with her children at Edmonton Green Library, waiting to call an out-of-hours emergency number at 5pm in the hope of securing shelter for the night.
No Enfield libraries will be open on Christmas Day or Boxing Day.
Freda said: “When the [council] housing officer told me I had to go to Telford I said the links I have with my church are the only links I have, it is not like I am faking it. But they said it wasn’t on paper that I couldn’t travel to Telford.”
Freda added that she had been paying rent for her flat in Curlew House and that the only reason for her eviction was because the block is set to be demolished next year, as part of Alma Estate’s ongoing regeneration.
The Dispatch understands that while council tenants at Curlew House have been offered new, modern homes on the redeveloped estate, the block has also been housing many temporary accommodation tenants renting privately who are now receiving eviction notices.
The latest figures show that there are still more than 200 homeless Enfield families living in hotels, at a cost to the council of hundreds of thousands of pounds every month. Some have even been living in hotels for more than a year.
Update (28th December):
An Enfield Council spokesperson said: “Curlew House will be demolished next year as part of the Alma Estate regeneration scheme in Ponders End. This will see a further 400 homes being developed for Enfield residents in addition to the 600 delivered so far.
“Residents who are private rented tenants of Atlantic were aware of the short life of the building, and of the need to vacate the building when taking on the tenancy. The possession process takes several months and gives residents time to make alternative arrangements.
“The council has no option but to make a single offer of accommodation due to the severe lack of affordable accommodation. Enfield is one of many councils that are now making offers for homes wherever is affordable and suitable. The council continues to ask the government for a long-term solution to increase the supply of affordable housing.”