Campaigners support single mum in fight for housing

A single Walthamstow mother told by Waltham Forest Council to move into a pest-ridden shared home and then to Stoke-on-Trent has been forced to move once again.

Nadia Zamin, 38, and her three children were housed in a single room in temporary accommodation in Leyton, after being evicted by their private landlord at the end of June.

At the beginning of July, the council apologised “unreservedly” for initially trying to house her in a shared Ilford house occupied by single men and where she found dead mice in the kitchen.

On July 23, she was offered a privately-rented home in Stoke-on-Trent and given two days to move. After refusing to leave her family and children’s school behind, she was told the council would no longer house her.

On Tuesday, August 3, campaigners from Unite, London Renters Union and the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition gathered outside her accommodation, determined to keep her family off the streets.

And on Wednesday, Nadia told the Local Democracy Reporting Service she had been offered another temporary, place to stay in Walthamstow – this time by the council’s social services department.

She said: “I have packed up half my stuff already because I don’t know what’s going to happen, I don’t know what to do.

“I’m not happy and the kids are not happy. We just want a permanent home. We are fed up and I don’t want to be shifted somewhere and then [have to move again] in two weeks.“

Nadia also alleged that her “unfair” treatment by the council had become worse since she decided to speak out on social media and to the local press.

She said the council’s social services department originally offered to pay for her to remain in the Leyton home while they conducted an assessment, but that this was refused by the housing department.

However, the council’s cabinet member for housing, Louise Mitchell, said social services “would not, and would never, be in a position” to make such an offer before it was agreed by housing – and suggested the social worker who spoke to Nadia may have just been informing her “of all the possible options”.

Cllr Mitchell said: “As we have previously explained, we cannot, and will not, talk about individual cases.

“However, our social workers will always inform any family they are working with, of all the possible options that may be available to them.

“They would not, and would never, be in a position where they would make an offer to any family without it being discussed and agreed upon by social services and housing managers beforehand, and in the private rented sector with the landlord themselves.

“This is standard procedure across all local authorities.”

Despite Nadia’s situation, many of the people who gathered to support her on Tuesday viewed her determined fight to stay in the borough where she was born as a “beacon of hope”.

Paula Mitchell, from the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, which has supported Nadia throughout, said many had questioned why they were “making such a fuss over one person”.

She explained: “We know there are lots of people facing eviction but… if the community comes together and defends one of their own, that can give confidence to a lot of people that they can also make a stand.”

Others who had agreed to spend their Tuesday on a Leyton residential street – waiting to confront a property agent who had threatened to change the locks – said their reasons for being there ranged from the personal to the general.

Carole Vincent, from East London’s Unite branch, said she showed up because she is also a mother, who had faced eviction herself in the past.

She said: “Nadia has done nothing wrong. She has a family and her circumstances changed, it could happen to any one of us.

“To be taken away from where you were born, grew up and had your children and told the only place you can be housed is miles away with no support is [a mother’s] worst nightmare.

“The council needs to find a positive outcome to this situation and that outcome is not to send people hundreds of miles away into what could be an even worse situation.”

Meanwhile Tom Barringer, from London Renters Union (LRU), said he enjoyed being part of the “enormous beacon of hope” Nadia’s continued resistance represents.

He said: “Anyone who has done any amount of work with LRU is aware of how much power landlords have… it’s easy to get quite despairing about it.

“But, in Nadia’s case, we have been able multiple times to frustrate what the council is doing and really, really annoy them.”

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Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter