HOUSES TO HOMES

Families are being housed in appalling properties - this has to change

We are often asked for beds and other household items for children who have been rehoused by local authorities and housing associations, often from temporary or emergency accommodation, into properties that are nothing more than a roof over heads. 

This is not acceptable. Children and families need a comfortable, safe and hospitable environment to live in. Without this, children are surviving, not thriving. It is within the power of the community - local people, organisations and authorities - to ensure that every family is rehoused in a home, not just a house. 

A front line member of Wokingham Borough Council staff described the lives of many families we work with as ‘just survival’. This was definitely the experience of Beth, who lives in a Council house in Winnersh. She had fled her abusive home with her children and was rehoused safely by the council, however, she said that the experience left her feeling ‘like a name on a form, not a person’. Beth’s case was alarming to us at First Days, but not unusual. When she was rehoused, from emergency accommodation into her permanent home, the house was empty, with no white goods, no floor covering and no light fittings. We helped Beth source white goods and some furniture from other local charities and we provided her children with beds, furniture, toys, books and school uniforms, supplies and digital devices to support their education. Beth, who works full time as a carer, scoured local free sites and skips for scraps of carpet and has stapled those to the floor in her children’s rooms. She has used old bed sheets as curtains and has a rug from a disused office building as a covering on her own bedroom floor. 

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All houses should have floor coverings, curtains and light fittings, on the day the family move in
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All houses should be clean and free from damp and mould, on the day the family move in

 
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All houses should have cooking facilities and equipment - on the day the family move in

Julie and her partner Steve welcomed their third baby to the world in October and were excited about their first Christmas with their latest addition. However, baby Ella kept getting sick and requiring hospital treatment due to recurring and dangerous chest infections and breathing problems. When we were called, on Christmas Eve, we were shocked to find that the family were being housed in a mobile home, emergency accommodation, as social services and the hospital had said it was unsafe, due to damp and mould, for Ella to return to the family home. We were asked for a cot and clothes for the baby, as everything in the house was so damp that it was making her sick and needed replacing. 

We were able to provide a cot and other essentials for the baby, however, the mobile home did not have a working oven, it did not have a fridge and there was no other furniture. The parents were sleeping on the floor and Christmas was simply not an event they could take part in. 

Despite it being Christmas Eve we managed to find a bed and some other items of furniture for the adults, as well as some emergency food and supplies to make Christmas slightly more enjoyable for the new family. 

What can we do? 

We believe that it is within the power and influence of local authorities, housing associations and organisations like ours to co-ordinate and mobilise the support needed to ensure that no family finds themselves in the situation that Baby Ella's, and Beth's families experienced. 

We believe that there is a lot of good in our communities, a lot of generous people and because of this absolutely no need for any child to live in a home without a fridge, cooker, carpets, lights or curtains. 

We currently hold a small fund, and have good links with other funders, to supply these items.

 

We believe that a more co-ordinated approach could make a huge difference. 

For more information about the work we are doing to lobby and campaign for better homes for families please email emma@firstdays.net

To contribute towards this vital work - please donate here.