A father said his children living in a hostel shed were ‘scared’ to walk across the garden at night to use the toilet.
Tomasz, his wife and their young children have been living in a shed in the garden of an emergency shelter in Ilford since becoming homeless.
Despite the father-of-two working long hours as a janitor, the family was barred from private rental and evicted from their former property in August.
Their hostel room is cramped, there is no internet access and the bathroom is broken.
As a result, the family’s only choice is to go to the main building to use the shared bathroom, which scares the children when they have to go out at night in the dark.
Tomasz described how “everything is a challenge”, explaining: “In the ward, the main difficulty is the lack of space. Most of the time the children have to sit on the bed to eat and everything is in boxes , reports My London.
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“Schoolwork is such a challenge. A lot of school homework needs internet, but we don’t have WiFi. I contacted the school and told them what was going on, so the kids wouldn’t get in trouble.
“Everything is a challenge. Last week I had to wait until 11am before I could cook breakfast as there are so many people queuing to use the facilities.
This family represents just four of the approximately 170,000 people currently homeless in London. And Tomasz’s young children are just two of more than 86,000 children in the capital who are homeless.
Shelter revealed the grim findings today (December 9), adding that the numbers are likely understated due to limited reporting and types of undocumented homelessness such as couch surfing.
It concluded that at least one in 53 Londoners either slept rough on any given night or lived in temporary accommodation. Most of these are families – just like Tomasz’s.
The father-of-two described his family’s situation as “so stressful and depressing”, saying: “This Christmas I tell the children that Santa Claus can always find them.
“I’m trying to improve it by putting a little Christmas tree on the shelf and a Christmas light in the window. I want to try to make it as normal as possible, but it’s so stressful and depressing.”
And situations like Tomasz’s family aren’t expected to improve any time soon.
In fact, Shelter warned that the soaring cost of living combined with a likely harsh winter ahead and the removal of Covid protections such as universal credit increases and bans on evictions could throw thousands more across the country into homelessness.
Cllr Darren Rodwell, executive member of the London Councils for Housing and Planning, said: “London is the epicenter of the homelessness crisis. The combination of high housing costs and the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on London’s economy means we face the highest homelessness rates in the country.
“The boroughs are doing everything we can to support homeless Londoners, but we need urgent action from the government. Ministers need to make sure the social assistance system stops homelessness from happening in the first place and we need a lot more investment in affordable housing.
Shelter has already been inundated with calls to its emergency helpline, hearing from people facing a night on the streets in freezing conditions after being turned away from emergency accommodation, as well as thousands of families sharing common beds and facilities in grim hostel rooms.
Polly Neate, chief executive of the charity, said: ‘It is shameful that 170,000 people in London are homeless, and with Covid protections gone thousands more will join them. A shoddy hostel room or a freezing doorway is no place to wake up on Christmas morning, but unfortunately many people will.
To donate to Shelter’s Winter Appeal and help give thousands of people struggling with homelessness the urgent support, safety and hope they need in the difficult months ahead, visit shelter.org.uk/donate .