Basildon Council sending its homeless to Barking and Harlow
6:00am Tuesday 6th May 2014
Exclusive By Ian Burbidge
6:00am Tuesday 6th May 2014
Exclusive By Ian Burbidge
MORE than 100 homeless people were sent miles away to stay last year because the borough does not have enough accommodation, the Echo can reveal.
A total of 101 homeless people were sent to either Harlow or as far as Barking in 2013/14 – almost double the amount compared to the year before.
Housing bosses admit they have shortage of accommodation in the borough, while residents have compared the accommodation they were sent miles to, to a prison cell.
Last year, the borough had 282 people declared homeless and a priority – the highest in the whole of Essex – and hundreds more residents had to be sent to Thurrock and Southend in temporary accommodation.
Propping residents up in temporary accommodation has cost the authority almost £1million in the last three years, but the authority insists it is all budgeted for.
Craig Hooper, 24, of Moretons, Pitsea, was sent to the Barking Hotel with his girlfriend, Lacey Connell, 20, who was two months pregnant at the time.
He said: “It was horrible – we went up there for a night and never came back. It was shocking, you’d be better off going to a prison cell because the room wasn’t cleaned, the staff were rude, the toilets weren’t clean, and there were stains everywhere.”
The Echo revealed that the council had to send residents to Harlow last year, but the authority insisted it was just a handful – but its figures show a huge spike in people being sent outside the borough.
In total, 78 people were sent to Harlow in 2013/14, and a further 23 to Barking – compared to 53 sent to both areas the year before.
A further 129 were sent to Southend and 16 to Thurrock.
All authorities have a duty to put homeless residents in temporary accommodation if they are declared homeless and nothing permanent is available or while they investigate each person’s situation.
Southend has not had to send a resident out of the borough since 2007.
Mr Hooper, who was made homeless last year due to his landlord selling up, managed to get temporary accommodation from a family member.
He claimed Basildon Council told him that he would be given an offer of temporary council accommodation in six weeks of going to Barking.
He added: “Ten months later I’m still waiting on an offer.
“How can you tell a 10-month pregnant woman that she must go to Harlow? The council have not been helpful to us at all I’m still struggling every day.”
Another resident, who did not want to be named, said: “I had to go in for many interviews to then be told all they could offer me was a hotel in Barking which had no cooking facilities nor sleeping facilities for my baby.
“I refused the hotel & miraculously was offered a 2 bed flat in Laindon. I was there for a year & was then moved to another flat which I'm still in now.
“It seems to me the council try it on & say they have no properties for families when in actual fact they do.”
Soon-to-be homeless mum slams council
A MOTHER of two claims that she will be made homeless in two months – but Basildon Council will not do anything about it.
Danielle Davies, 24, has been on the authority’s housing register for five years and is currently facing an anxious future as her landlord is selling up.
It means that she will be turfed out of her property in Great Ranton, Basildon, on June 30 – but the council have simply told her to go to a homeless charity.
She claims that she was told by housing officers to only come back a month before she moves out – despite the authority preparing to rubber-stamp a policy.
Hotel gets poor reviews - but council vows to continue using it
According to disgruntled guests on TripAdvisor, The Barking Hotel is anything but the ‘excellent value and quiet accomodation’ it bills itself as on its website.
Pitsea resident Craig Hooper compared the hotel, in Station Parade, to a prison cell and average reviews on the website are not much better.
Basildon Council said it is one of the few places in Barking that works with local authorities and accepts homeless people, and regularly inspects the premises – and will continue to use it.
However, one reviewer wrote on TripAdvisor: “Dirty little scank pit that needs to be shut down and rebuilt. You'll receive unwanted guests such as rats, mice, cockroaches, maggots and flies.”
Another posted: “Wouldn't expect a dog to have stayed there.”
However, there were two five star reviews of the hotel, too.
A Basildon Council spokesman said: “The charges are reasonable and in line with other hotels we use outside of Barking. It also meets all the safety standard requirements.”
“Regular inspections are carried out. We also have to see (and take copies of) the current electrical safety certificate, public liability insurance and fire safety certificate.”
Don't come to Basildon if you're homeless - senior Tories
DON’T come to Basildon if you are homeless – that is the message from the man in charge of the borough’s housing.
Senior Tories have admitted it is becoming ‘increasingly difficult’ not to send people afar due to a lack of space.
In 2011/12 just seven homeless people were sent to either Barking or Harlow – but that number has skyrocketed to 101 last year.
Phil Turner, deputy leader of Basildon Council and cabinet member for housing, said: “If you are homeless, do not come to Basildon because we have our own needs to sort out.
“We don’t try to send families out of the borough but it is becoming increasingly difficult.”
Mr Turner added a spike in people being declared homeless, plus London boroughs sending their residents to temporary accommodation in Basildon, has not helped the issue.
But the authority has rubber stamped a new homeless strategy that focuses on working with landlords and on prevention before it becomes an issue for individuals.
Mr Turner added: “We will be working with our partners a lot closely on this one.
“We are a compassionate council and that is built into this strategy.”
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