Mum-of-three ‘shocked’ by hostel conditions

A mum-of-three says she has been left ‘shocked’ by the ‘vile’ conditions while staying at a council-owned hostel in east London.

Lizzie Webb had been living in a privately rented flat for the last eight years in Dagenham, but was recently evicted by her landlord after the flat flooded several times.

Barking and Dagenham Council placed her and her three children into a hotel for a few weeks before they were moved into a hostel as part of the council’s duties set out in the Homeless Reduction Act. Under housing law, the council must help find housing for a person within 56 days of becoming homeless or at risk of homelessness.

After she was moved there at the end of last month, Ms Webb claims the family has been unwell due to the hostel being unclean and having dirty water.

She told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS): “We’ve all been ill with sickness bugs, the water in [the hostel] is vile and cloudy, but I didn’t realise when we first moved in; we’ve been drinking it and brushing our teeth with it and it’s made us really poorly. There’s urine on the floors, there’s excrement on the walls, tissues are everywhere, there’s sanitary towels on the floor and all the kitchen cupboards are hanging off.”

Photos captured by Ms Webb and seen by the LDRS show cloudy water forming in a bathroom sink and a communal bathroom covered in used toilet paper. A council spokesperson told the LDRS that a team of cleaners are on site for seven days a week and follow a ‘rigorous’ cleaning schedule, though Ms Webb contested this.

However the spokesperson also said shared accommodation with communal kitchens and bathrooms ‘represents a challenge in terms of cleanliness’. Ms Webb also claims there are problems with antisocial behaviour, and it is stopping her children from sleeping peacefully at night.

Lizzie has complained about cleanliness at the hostel

She said: “Kids play and knock on your doors all night, they scream in the hallways, I’ve had to ring security so many times. My girls are having nightmares, my little boy is acting out… I’m watching them deteriorate, that’s proof of just how bad it is.” She went on to say that she feels ‘ignored’ by the council because her mum hasn’t been allowed to visit her after management allegedly declined her request.

Ms Webb explained: “I’ve asked for visitors but I’m not allowed a single visitor so my own mum can’t come and see us. It’s stressful every day, I feel like I’m fighting every day to prove that we can’t stay there and what it’s doing to us but no one wants to listen.”

According to a council spokesperson, the hostel does allow visitors but there are rules for restricting some visitors because of health and safety reasons. Ms Webb says she wants to highlight her experience of staying in a hostel long-term, and how the housing crisis has impacted her and her family.

She said: “It’s been a shock to me so can you imagine what a shock it has been to my kids, it’s just been traumatic. It’s vile in there, it’s not somewhere you can live, it’s not right. My kids came out of school to find out they had been evicted, they left their home that morning and now everything has been put in storage. They’re not going to see any of their things for however long so it’s a big shock to their system as well.”

A spokesperson for the council said: “While the nature of shared accommodation with communal kitchens and shared facilities represents a challenge in terms of cleanliness, the council employs a team of cleaners who are on-site for seven days a week and follow a rigorous cleaning schedule. However, we rely on tenants being respectful of the facilities and other tenants in terms of how they leave an area after use and any concerns raised are addressed with individual tenants.”

They said the hostel has regular fire safety and water safety tests, and ‘there are systems and processes in place to test the water on a regular basis to ensure that there are no issues’. They added: “There is a quarterly routine pest control inspection in place where staff check and review all bait traps.

“Where we are alerted to pest issues by a tenant outside of that process we contact our pest control provider directly, who will attend within 48 hours.” On antisocial behaviour concerns, the spokesperson said staff are on site for 24 hours a day, every day of the week.

On visitors, they said: “Visitors are allowed to [the hostel] and there are regular visits from professionals who provide support either to the resident and their household. The rationale for restricting visitors is purely for health and safety reasons, as the property accommodates some vulnerable residents.”

They added: “We will continue to offer advice and assistance to support the resident to resolve her housing situation. She already has contact details for the officer dealing with her housing case, and support from officers at [the hostel].”

Ruby Gregory

Local Democracy Reporter