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Family living in garden shed in Ilford among 170,000 homeless in London

Tomasz said his children are scared of using a shared bathroom during the night (Credit: Shelter)

A family living in a garden shed in Ilford are among 170,000 rough sleepers in London.

New research by Shelter shows Newham has the highest rate of homelessness in the capital with 1 in 22 people sleeping rough while in Redbridge it is 1 in 38 people.

Among them is Tomasz, his wife and their young children who have been living in a shed in the garden of an emergency hostel in Ilford. 

Tomasz was priced out of private renting despite working long hours as a maintenance worker and lost his home in August. 

The bathroom in their cramped hostel room is broken and they have to use the main building’s shared bathroom which scares his children as they have to go out in the dark at night. 

“In the room the main difficulty is the lack of space,” explained Tomasz. “A lot of the time the kids have to sit on the bed to eat and everything is in boxes.

“School work is such a difficulty. A lot of school homework needs internet, but we don’t have WiFi. I contacted school and told them what was happening so the kids don’t get in trouble.

“Everything is a challenge – last week I had to wait until 11 o’clock before I could make breakfast as there were so many people queuing up to use the facilities.

“This Christmas I’m telling the kids that Santa will still be able to find them. I’m trying to make it better by putting up a small Christmas tree on the shelf and a Christmas light in the window. I want to try and make it as normal as possible but it’s so stressful and depressing.”

Shelter has warned thousands more people could lose their homes and end up in a similar situation to Tomasz and his family. 

They explained the end of Covid protections such as the ‘Everyone In’ scheme, the eviction ban and the boost to Universal Credit will make it harder for people to keep their homes as the cost of living soars. 

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “We predicted the pandemic would trigger a rising tide of evictions and our services are starting to see the reality of this now.

“We’re flooded with calls from families and people of all ages who are homeless or on the verge of losing their home.”

Cllr Darren Rodwell has pushed for more government funding to tackle homelessness

The cross-party group London Councils said it is pushing for changes to national policy to improve support for Londoners struggling with housing costs. 

These include an end to the five-week wait for Universal Credit payments to begin, restored government funding for councils’ local welfare assistance schemes and increased Discretionary Housing Payment funding.

“London is the epicentre of the homelessness crisis,” added the leader of Barking and Dagenham Council, Darren Rodwell. 

“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.

“Boroughs are doing all we can to support homeless Londoners but we need urgent action from the government. Ministers must ensure the welfare system prevents homelessness from occurring in the first place and we need far more investment in affordable housing.”

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