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10 October 2018

Hidden homelessness on World Homeless Day

What is it like to raise a child in temporary accommodation?  “Bad. In a word. Bad.”

Here at Little Village we’ve been talking a lot recently about homelessness. While a small number of the parents we’ve supported are living on the streets, a far greater number are ‘hidden homeless’ – the families living on other people’s sofas, and the growing number of families, like this mum here, raising kids in temporary accommodation.

If you’re not sure what temporary accommodation means, it’s where councils temporarily place families in places like hostels or short-term flats until a permanent home is found.

Over half the families we see here at Little Village are now are in this situation, a significant increase from 2017.

“I’ve been in this temporary accommodation for almost four years now. We have one bedroom for me and my four children. We’re not allowed a washing machine in our flats. Imagine 4 children, for almost 4 years, with no washing machine! And we’re not allowed relatives to come and stay. So when I had my baby, my mum wasn’t allowed to come and stay to help. I’m not in prison, but it feels like it sometimes.

“The council won’t fit a landline because they say this accommodation is temporary so we don’t need it – but all of the council and government services are online. I can’t sort out the services we need, and my children don’t get the access to do research and exercises that they need to do for homework. It’s affecting their ability to do homework and to do well in school.“

The increase in homeless families we’ve tracked here at Little Village reflects the wider picture. 87,320 children are growing up in temporary accommodation across London. Many of their families are working. It’s just that London rents are eye-watering and rising, while wages have not kept up with increases in the cost of living, and housing benefits were frozen in 2016.

“The worst part is having to explain it to my children, especially my eldest child. She understands now, and it’s hard. I had a good career, now I teach languages. I work, I feed my children. I just need some help with affordable housing.”

We hope that the support we give, alongside many other organisations locally supporting homeless families, helps to make paretning in unstable circumstances a little bit easier.


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