‘My blood boils with nerves,’ writes Maria, in her school essay. ‘Wondering if they will put us in another place like this. I have to stay strong, not only for myself but for my parents as well.
‘I am old enough to understand the consequences of moving. We have to fight for a fairytale – because it does not exist.’
Belinda, Maria’s mother, says she cried when she read her 14-year-old daughter’s essay.
Maria is just one of an estimated 250,000 men, women and children forced by the United Kingdom’s housing crisis to live in ‘temporary’ accommodation.
Government figures state 84,740 households across England were living in temporary accommodation across England at the end of March 2019.
Many such families – like Maria’s – live long-term with this ‘temporary’ insecurity, some for longer than ten years.
The same figures state 56,280 homeless households were living in ‘temporary’ accommodation across London at the end of March 2019. Some 43,700 of those homeless households were families with children.*
The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government details homeless households within individual London boroughs. For example, some 2,933 of those 56,280 London homeless households were the responsibility of elected councillors and appointed officers in the north London borough of Haringey.
Of those 2,933 Haringey homeless households, some 2,588 had children.
London Intelligence asked Haringey Council for updated details. As at 9 October 2019, Haringey says it has 2,871 homeless households living in temporary accommodation. That appears to represent a possible reduction of 62 households since March 2019.
The council also says 2,523 of those homeless households living in temporary accommodation have children – a possible reduction of 65 such households with children since March 2019.
Haringey Council states the length of time that homeless households have lived in temporary accommodation ranges from ‘less than one year to 18 years’.
Haringey homeless households in temporary accommodation with one bedroom have spend an ‘average of 2.15 years’. The council states that other average time lengths are:
• 2 bedrooms – 3.97 years
• 3 bedrooms – 5.68 years
• 4 bedrooms – 6.65 years
• 5 bedrooms – 5.08 years
Haringey Council also estimates taxpayers are paying £7.74m to keep homeless households in temporary accommodation during 2019/20.
Money and statistics, of course, cannot convey the human cost – especially to children – of the ongoing failure of elected national and local politicians to provide these thousands of homeless households with decent, secure and permanent homes.
How do the tens of thousands of homeless children living in ‘temporary’ accommodation cope with knowing they will have to leave their friends and schools?
How does living with such uncertainty and insecurity impact affect them on a daily basis?
Maria and her family have kindly agreed to let London Intelligence readers see her well-written and passionate school essay about her family’s life in temporary accommodation. Maria’s family have lived in ‘temporary’ accommodation for many years.
‘I know it’s not only me that believes that they are, or would like to live in a fairytale.
I mean, it’s everybody’s dream. Everybody wants to live in a palace. Some may want a wicked spell put on them and have their Prince Charming come and save them. Well, that’s me.
Just before I started my adventure, I thought my life was like a fairytale. I thought it was always going to be one. That was before September 2016.
Future me is curious to know why I am missing a day off school. This is because I’m ill. I don’t feel well nor look well and it soon gets worse. The time is around 1pm, so the post has been delivered. Unfortunately my Dad has got a letter. It states we are going to be evicted.
Speechless. Silence whispers through the air. My throat is going to choke with sadness.
This is my palace. It has three double-bedrooms. The ice cream van stops outside the house. The house has a garden that could fit four double-decker London buses.
This was my house. This was my palace.
But not for much longer.
I have lived here for ten years, a generation.
Late September 2016
‘Hotel, Hotel, Holiday Inn’ is what my Dad calls it; to cheer me up.
My adventure has brought me to a dungeon.
We are now living in a room that can fit one double bed.
But no, there is one double bed and one bunk bed, tightly side-by-side, almost like the poor people in a concentration camp.
My first thoughts are timid. I stood as if in a graveyard. Dead inside. Still, as a child thinks.
It was a hostel.
At the beginning of this adventure, it was my mission to find my own fairytale, and one a bit more realistic than the films.
But my ending is not a classic happy ever after.
It is devastating.
Let’s face it. My family is now homeless – and I have no other words to describe it.
Two days later…
We have got a letter to state we are moving out of our dungeon in four weeks. But where to?
My blood boils with nerves.
Wondering if they will put us in another place like this. I have to stay strong, not only for myself but for my parents as well.
I am 14, old enough to understand the consequences of moving.
We have to fight for a fairytale – because it does not exist.
Early Autumn 2016
We have now moved into what I like to call our cottage in Wood Green.
This is the cottage of the fairytale but it is still not right.
This is now a quirky adventure with crooks and crannies along the way.
It’s not bothering me – but it is still affecting my school grade.
Early Winter 2016
It is my Mum’s birthday. It is a happy event with moving boxes displayed as a decoration. But one of the best gifts my Mum got was…a letter stating that we are moving again, in the Spring. It still feels a long time away but the wait will be worth it. ‘Time flies when you’re having fun,” says my Mum.
Late Spring 2017
I can’t believe it. My mission is accomplished.
I’m living in my own little fairytale. I’m living in Tottenham.
Our home is the equivalent to my palace. We now have a bedroom for everyone.
And we couldn’t be happier.
I live in a hyperbolic chamber.I go in, close my eyes, take a deep breath, and the world goes away.
My destination is complete.
Everyone wants happiness. No one wants pain. But you can’t have a rainbow without a little rain.
Just before I started my adventure, I thought my life was a fairytale. I thought it was always going to be one.
I still do. Every fairytale needs something wicked to happen, even if it always ends in a ‘Happily Ever After’.
But my story has not yet ended..’
* Source: Temporary Accommodation, England, April 2018 to March 2019, Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government.
Essay reproduced with the kind consent of the author Maria and family.
© Copyright wholly owned by Maria, the author. No reproduction without licensed permission of of the author.
© Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, 2019