21 December 2023
Letter sent to decision makers from the Croydon Temporary Accommodation Campaign. Please sign to show your support.

Date: 08.12.23

Dear Croydon Cabinet Member for Homes, Susmita Sen and Mayor Jason Perry,

We are writing to you as a concerned group of residents accommodated in uninhabitable temporary accommodation located in the borough of Croydon.

As part of the Croydon Council's commitment to improve the conditions of temporary accommodation we want to work with the council and request immediate improvement regarding the poor conditions of temporary accommodation in Croydon; as many families are made to stay in what is listed as emergency accommodation for numerous years, there needs to be urgent change to aid families.

In addition to the quality of accommodation, we are requesting an updated change in how cases are handled as many homeless applications and cases could have been avoided had proper care and consideration been taken from the start. In turn saving the council potentially hundreds if not millions of pounds and being able to invest the council’s money into multiple sectors to further help the community.

The poorly maintained accommodations in question are: Concord House, Windsor House, Gilroy Court and represented in this group are tenants of these blocks and tenants previously placed in Sycamore House who are part of the Croydon Temporary Accommodation Campaign.

We understand that Croydon Council is currently operating under special measures. However, the local authority does have a duty to support the most vulnerable people in the borough, so as a collective we have composed a few of the concerns we believe to be more pressing and heavily impacting vulnerable people and the safety of small children.

People across Croydon have been in temporary accommodation for a number of years without any indication as to what is happening with their case.

We would like to be acknowledged.

The council need to make contact information as clear and easy as possible for current residents in temporary accommodation. Additionally, Croydon Council should resource its

housing team to be able to contact temporary accommodation tenants every 6 months as a minimum. This will allow tenants to understand what is happening with their housing case and allow the housing team to identify any concerns.

This will help not only residents but housing and homelessness staff members of the council be more up to date and not need to go through multiple third parties which can take a minimum of 20 working days to source information that should be at hand.

So by bettering the resourcing for the housing team, there will be cost saving to Croydon Council by preventing legal challenges and reducing the knock-on costly effects that temporary accommodation has on statutory services such as health and education services.

People have been left without bidding numbers for many years. This is a concern as people do not have the freedom to bid for accommodation on the choice-based lettings system or to check that they have given the correct priority banding they are entitled

to.

The group feel there is a lack of clarity surrounding the bidding systems and why some temporary accommodation households have been offered a bidding number while others have

not.

By not supplying a bidding number and banding information households living in temporary accommodation are prevented from engaging in choice-based lettings. Households living in

temporary accommodation may be entitled to a higher banding than they are allocated but have no way of telling this as they do not have their banding information.

This lack of information has also proved to be extremely detrimental to the residents health, with many reporting low moods, helplessness and even as far as suicidal thoughts due to no

actual answers other than to look into housing options such as private renting which are evidently even more impractical and impossible.

For some temporary accommodation there are no clothes washing facilities at all.

In some blocks there are many people having to use one laundry facility and other blocks there is no laundry facility. This means that families are having to travel with bags of clothes to wash and this is coming at a large expense for families who don’t have the spare income.

For some households this is a minimum of £40 per week.

This is especially hard for households with multiple children or household members with disabilities or health conditions where they need to regularly wash clothes. This physical and

financial burden is making temporary accommodation even more financially unsuitable for households.

Most of the households in the above listed blocks are living in one room spaces with a kitchenette (often one cupboard, small fridge and sink), one bed and a small bathroom.

In many instances there are multiple people sharing these spaces. There is no other space for children to play or develop. To make the properties more suitable we would like the council to work with this group to create outdoor space for people in the above blocks.

We understand that the current unsatisfactory service we are receiving could be made worse by further cuts and restructuring. We demand that staff are maintained and increased to ensure the housing team can provide a suitable service to those in temporary

accommodation.

Regular pest control checks should be completed due to 100s of residences sharing the same building and bins and many reporting sightings of rats, mice and/or bed bugs.

Many residents are not allowed to bring in personal furniture but are also not given adequate storage or sleeping arrangements to support the families. Many have no option but to use broken, small or bed bug ridden beds and bedding. Leading to further NHS costs due to regular hospital or doctors visits from residents with health concerns.

Moving forward when moving people out or into accommodations all furnishing and the room itself should be checked.

Ex- office buildings are unfit for human habitation because they were designed for office use, not for vulnerable people to share a room for years. The water causes damage to hair and skin and irritation to areas that are delicate. This is a risk to babies and young children because the water is so hard.

People and young children shouldn’t be expected to live, cook and wash in these blocks for such length of time.

These blocks and any other blocks within Croydon should be completely safe. The blocks being used as temporary accommodation were not built as long-term accommodation for

vulnerable residents, or for families with young children to be sharing a room.

Any fire safety failing within these blocks should be immediately addressed and residents should be informed of what ongoing fire safety measures are in place for these blocks.

Whilst we thank you for taking these points on board we do not want to be reminded of the financial situation facing Croydon Council or the short supply of council housing - by definition you need to have a vulnerability to be in temporary accommodation and we expect these demands to be prioritised.

Change needs to happen now.

From

The Croydon Temporary Accommodation Campaign

We have asked for a response by the 18th January 2024.

Update 06 March 2024

UPDATE: Croydon Temporary Accommodation Campaign

Hello,

Thank you for signing the open letter. We have received an initial response from the Corporate Director of Housing, Susmita Sen and was told that a full response will be received in the next few weeks.

The full response will address:

• Washing Facilities

• Pest Issues and process

• Personal Belongings

• Assessment of TA accommodation

• Water quality issues

• Fire Safety Concerns

• Access to play areas

The initial response also says that council officers will ensure that all residents have access to their bidding numbers in order to bid for social housing as a move-on option.

As a group we need to keep pushing these demands so I will be at South Norwood Community Kitchen tomorrow to speak to people about this.

Please would you join me to be part of building these demands at 12noon on the 7th March 2024 at South Norwood Community Kitchen, 44B Portland Road, SE25 4PQ.

There will be a sign on our table saying "Croydon Temporary Accommodation Campaign" so you know who I am.

There will be food and drinks for people who come for free.

This is a very child friendly community cafe if you need to bring children with you, they will be welcomed. We can also help with travel costs. If you would like to speak to me, you can call 0208 208 5757, or email community@swllc.org or WhatsApp 07871202784.

I am at South Norwood Community Kitchen every 1st Thursday of the month.

Thank you and in solidarity -

From Rhi, South West London Law Centres

Update 10 April 2024

Croydon Temporary Accommodation Campaign

Hello,

You are receiving this update because you signed your support to an open letter sent to Croydon Council on the 8th of December 2023.

A full response to this open letter is expected by the 23rd of April 2024 which we will share and will be progressing the campaign.

On the 18th of April 2024 we're holding a Citizens Journalism workshop in partnership with our friends at the Rainbow Collective.

If you live in temporary accommodation and would like to attend please sign up below, or if know of anyone who may wish to attend, please share this information with them.

Full booking details here:

eventbrite.co.uk/e/citizen-journalism-training-for...

This is a free event and lunch will be provided by the law centre and if travel or child care costs are a barrier please get in contact with Rhi to discuss on community@swllc.org or text/call/WhatsApping 078 71202 784.

In solidarity,

Update 15 April 2024

Corrected link: Citizens journalism for those in temporary accommodation in Croydon or Wandsworth

Hello,

Please find corrected link for the citizens journalism workshop below.

If you live in temporary accommodation in Croydon or Wandsworth and would like to join the workshop on Thursday please do sign up.

eventbrite.co.uk/e/citizen-journalism-training-for...

I look forward to sharing the formal response to our open letter shortly.

Update 10 June 2024

UPDATE: Croydon Temporary Accommodation Campaign

Hello,

We received a response to the open letter. Please find a copy of this at the bottom of this update.

The open letter you signed secured postive commitments from Croydon Council and we would like to say again, thank you for signing your support.

As well as building on this work and ensuring these commitments are met, we also need to make sure the housing offer for Croydon residents is decent.

Last week we heard of families being refused accesss to existing green space that is within the grounds of their privately ran temporary accommodation. These restrictions force families to stay in their small shared rooms without any recreational space.

Next, we will be focusing on getting residents access to recreational space where they live.

We need you to remain involved in this campaign work, if you would like to discuss ANY part of this or to get more involved, please contact croydontacampaign@gmail.com.

In solidarity,


Dear Resident

RE: OPEN LETTER FROM THE CROYDON TEMPORARY ACCOMMODATION

CAMPAIGN

I write further in response to the letter sent to Mayor Jason Perry, Councillor Lynne Hale, the Cabinet Member for Homes, and myself from the Croydon Temporary Accommodation Campaign shortly before Christmas.

I am sorry for the delay in replying but would acknowledge and apologise for the fact that the investigation of the issues you have raised is taking longer than anticipated. However, during this time I am pleased to be able to say that we have now begun what we intend to be regular meetings at Windsor House and Concord House and are in the process of arranging this at Gilroy Court.

Before I respond to your specific points, I would raise the following:

• The Council recognises that in recent years its engagement with homeless families in temporary accommodation has often been unsatisfactory, and many people have had trouble in getting a response from the service. I accept that those placed in temporary accommodation are entitled to a better level of customer care and to be regularly updated on their application for permanent housing.

• The service has been through a period of transition with the Council having to implement changes required by the Homeless Reduction Act 2017 which places greater emphasis on the early prevention of homelessness and being more responsive to the complex and varied needs of those who are losing their homes. Additionally, we are faced with considerable increases in homelessness applications which for many people will impact upon the wait for permanent accommodation.

• In that light, we welcome regular communication with you and accept that there is a significant amount of work to do to in ensuring that we are listening and engaging with residents.

• In terms of your specific points, I would state the following;

Communication

Having investigated this matter, I do accept that the Council’s communication with its residents in temporary accommodation at Windsor House, Concord House and Gilroy Court has been inadequate and I am sorry that many residents have not been updated about their housing application. I can confirm that as part of the council’s strategy to listen & engage with its residents we have now set up monthly resident meetings at our largest council managed hostels, Windsor House & Concord House.

To date we have had two meetings at both hostels with high resident turnouts. We are currently exploring how we can run similar events at Gilroy Court, which is privately managed. We are also reviewing how we can engage with our wider temporary accommodation residents, and this includes those in smaller hostels and self-contained properties. At the most recent meetings officers from several different housing departments attended and this included our Housing Registration & Allocations team and Income Recovery Team. It is hoped going forward that partner agencies will also attend these events.

This will enable all our temporary accommodation residents to be regularly updated on their housing situation, discuss their move-on options, and raise any other issues about their accommodation and access wider support where it is needed.

Transparency with bidding

The Council accepts the adverse effect that long stays in temporary accommodation can have on families. We also regret that residents have not been receiving updates on their rehousing applications and accept that this will increase the stress of the situation they are in. I will confirm that it is our intention to clarify the situation for every resident placed in Gilroy Court, Windsor House, and Concord House. As I have stated this is taking far longer than I envisaged but we have every intention of meeting this commitment and write to all residents to update them on their situation. Please also note that residents at Concord House & Windsor House have been able to receive direct updates at the recent resident meetings.

Issues raised about the condition of Concord House, Windsor House, and Gilroy Court.

Concord House & Windsor House are privately owned hostels but are leased to and managed by the council. As such the council is responsible for day-to-day repairs, fire safety and all concierge services. Both hostels are regularly inspected to ensure that they are safe for our residents to live in. We have officers on site 24 hours a day at both hostels with a daytime hostel manager and a nighttime security service. All our on-site officers have an active relationship with residents and can support not only with repair issues but also health & wellbeing support.

Regarding Gilroy Court, this is a privately managed hostel run by the London Hotel Group Ltd. Placements into the hostel are made by a number of different London boroughs.

To ensure that our privately managed temporary accommodation is of a good standard, we are members of a pan-London inspection service called ‘Setting the Standard’ (StS). This is a scheme used by 31 Local Authorities in London and provides a comprehensive property inspection & monitoring process for privately managed hostel and studio flat temporary accommodation. The service is run & managed by the 31 councils.

Gilroy Court was last formally inspected on 18 January 2024 and was found to be in good condition. Of the 82 rooms 2 required remediation and this was due to damp/mould in one room and the relocation of an inspection chamber in the other room. These works were completed shortly afterwards, and evidence provided. Gilroy Court also has staff on site 24 hours a day.

Clothes and Washing Facilities.

In the three sites, Concord House, Windsor House and Gilroy Court, washing & drying facilities are provided for use by residents.

At Concord House and Windsor House there are laundry facilities on each floor and costs £3.90 a wash and £2.30 to dry. In Gilroy Court the price is £4 & £3 respectively. We realise this may become expensive for larger families but represents an average pricing for this service.

We accept that it may be difficult to obtain use of these facilities during peak periods especially if a resident is working but for reasons of capacity, we are unlikely to be able to increase this provision.

Outside and Play space.

The Council accepts the difficulties families may have in finding appropriate play space for their young children and will work with residents to see if this situation can be improved. The ability to achieve this may be subject to negotiation with owners of the land and the fact that rights of way exist in these areas. In both Concord House and Windsor House there is a possibility that a part of the car park can be used as a play area, and we will explore this option and funding opportunities for this.

Maintaining staff.

The Council has no plans to reduce services provided at Windsor House and Concord House and would confirm that also to be the case in Gilroy Court. Although we are not able to increase staff numbers, maintaining the existing level of on-site management is essential if we are to continue to deliver a good quality service on these sites.

Pest Control

With regards to the issue of pest control, staff are very vigilant in reporting any incidents and there are very few recent reports that point to this currently being an issue. Sites are required to maintain a logbook containing pest control treatment which is made available for inspection by officers.

Where a property has a major pest problem, which is not under treatment this would be classified as a “major deficiency”, and regarding privately managed accommodation would be referred to the Local Housing Authority, Private Sector Housing Team.

Furniture Storage and general checks.

All furniture and fittings should be of an acceptable standard and well maintained, and meet the standards required by the Furniture and Furnishing Regulations 1998 (amended 2010). Regular checks do occur with regards to furniture and bedding and mattresses are replaced when new residents arrive, or they need replacement.

If residents are aware of sub-standard provision in this area, they should report the matter to the on-site management for a response.

Water Quality

I would confirm that the quality of water in Gilroy, Concord and Windsor is subject to 6 monthly testing and this process has not revealed any problems.

Fire Safety

All building has up to date fire risk assessments (FRA’s) as well as being subject to regular and random Fire Brigade inspections. Fire Safety is an essential element of managing the building safely and will always be a priority for the Council.

Next steps

In summary, I believe that setting up regular communication and dialogue with residents is the best way to resolve any concerns that you have raised. Additionally, Officers are available to directly meet with you to directly discuss the issues that you have raised.

Once again, I would apologise for the lack of communication with residents of Concord House, Windsor House, and Gilroy Court and in future will undertake to make sure that residents are regularly consulted about the situation they are in.

Yours sincerely

Susmita Sen

Corporate Director, Housing

147
signatures
122 verified
  1. Peter Apps, Journalist, Inside Housing, London
  2. Julie Barrett, Airline crew, London
  3. sarah forsyth, adviser, south west london law centres, london
  4. Matt Burn, Campaigner, Better Homes Enfield, London
  5. Ife Yssis, Duty Worker, Children’s Services, London
  6. Nzingha Assata, Retired Health Visitor, Afrikan Cooperative Union, London
  7. Ferris Watkins, Marketing Manager, London
  8. Silvia, Support worker, None, London
  9. Michael Richard Simpson, Minister of religion, Michsim Solar Powered Cooker ltd, Modern
  10. Monaso Kahengua, Unemployed, Croydon
  11. Maria -Magdolna Fodor, Nursery practitioner, Thornton Heath
  12. Michael Romyn, Historian, QMUL, London
  13. Ariel Klatskin, Data Analyst, Croydon
  14. Jennifer Agemerien, Thornton Heath
  15. Claire Asu-Adinye, Unemployed, Tenant, London
  16. Helen Parry
  17. Alex Hodson, Plumber, London
  18. Alison Wallace, Senior lecturer Social Policy and Housing, University of York, York
  19. Bibi Zeenat Maudarbocus, TEACHING Assistant/Volunteer, Refugees Helping Hands, London
  20. Humayun Kabir, Councillor, Bensham Manor community Association, Thornton Heath
...
82 more
verified signatures
  1. Linda Heiden, social justice campaigner, Political Accountability Network, Streatham
  2. Abbas Ali, Resistance Kitchen (Community kitchen in Norbury), Croydon
  3. Michael Boateng, Researcher, Citizens Advice l, Addiscombe
  4. Aneliya Kavrakova, Architectural assistant, London
  5. Paul Hepden, Disabled, N/a, Croydon
  6. David White, Retired, Croydon
  7. Libby Immanuel, Unemployed, London
  8. Andrea Gilbert, Advocate, Wandsworth Housing action, London
  9. Pamela Yule, cleaner, Glasgow
  10. Bridgit Tai, Welfare Rights Paralegal, South West London Law Centres, Croydon
  11. Frankie Stone, THe Big Issue Foundation, Bristol
  12. Bronte Schiltz, Journalist, The Big Issue, Manchester
  13. Sian Mason, SWLLC, London
  14. Eileen Mason, Retired solicitor, Newton Abbot
  15. Esmee Woolcomb, Retired, None, Bristol
  16. Matthew Ferguson
  17. Dave Campbell, Editor, na, London
  18. Catherine O'Sullivan, London
  19. Rowan Milligan, charity worker, Law for Life, Edinburgh
  20. Dragica Felja, Head of education and training, Law for Life, LONDON
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