A Westgate mum and her four-year-old son who spent two weeks sofa-surfing and then were faced with sleeping on the streets have been taken in by a Margate couple who say the housing system “is broken.”
Businesswoman Charlotte Silver and husband Jack Packman had desperately tried to help the mum and her child who had nowhere to go. They had been living in a Westgate property but were evicted after the building was sold. They then sofa surfed in Margate but it was a temporary solution.
A call was made to Thanet council’s housing team to try and find somewhere for the mum and boy to sleep on January 31 but Charlotte says they were told to call back after 5pm for the out of hours service and then had to repeatedly call until 9pm because they were told no senior staff were on hand to authorise accommodation.
The couple then found a place to stay with friends for the little boy but there was not enough room for the mum, who ended up staying the night in their home.
Charlotte and Jack have lodged a formal complaint with Thanet council over the handling of the incident.
Charlotte, who owns businesses Silvers in Margate and Ronnies in Ramsgate, said: “We explained that they had nowhere to go and would have to spend the night on the street. (The officer) was unsympathetic to this and in a nutshell told us it was our problem. At 5pm, we called the out of hours service who treated us amazingly at first and seemed to be really helpful and informative.
“They said that we would hear from a team member ASAP. After 2 hours we phoned back to be told there was no update and they couldn’t get hold of a senior member of staff from TDC.
“We said it was simply unacceptable that no member of staff from TDC was available. We rang again at 8pm and were told the same and finally called at 9pm with the same response.
“This is a failure from the local authority to carry out their duty to two vulnerable people, one being 4 years old.
“Around 8pm we made the decision to find the child alternative accommodation with a friend of ours but sadly they had no room for mum. This has meant the family had to split up and a child was in a strange home without his mum. Just after 9pm we made the decision that mum could stay with us as she would be out on the street otherwise.”
The complaint to the council raises concerns over there being no senior member of staff available out of hours and that a 4 year old child had to be separated from his mum to stay with strangers. They have also complained about a lack of empathy and question why they were told to book the mum into a hotel.
Charlotte said: “The local authority failed in every step of the process under their statutory obligation.”
The couple say they contacted numerous letting agents but only one was able to help. Prospects UK, run by Dayne Gooding who also now owns The Oak Hotel in Ramsgate, secured a two-bed property for the mum and her son but it will not be available until March.
Thanet council has offered temporary accommodation but this would be in either Medway or Maidstone. The mum works in Thanet and her son is at an isle school.
Jack, who will be standing for a place on Thanet council in this May’s local election, said: “Thanet council insisted that she had to move to Medway or Maidstone while in temporary accommodation. They also instructed her to find her own accommodation. They had suggested a number of letting agents. Prospects UK were the only letting agents that said they could help. We managed to get an immediate appointment with Dayne Gooding and he showed care, empathy and was decisive about supporting the woman.
“He moved extremely quickly and contacted TDC to sort out a two bedroom property which managed to secure support from TDC with the part funding of the rent and upfront costs.
“The property doesn’t come available until March 1 and TDC still insisted that she moved to Medway with her 4 year old until it becomes available. This is just impractical as the child’s school and her work is in Thanet. If they moved she would have had to give up work meaning she couldn’t afford the property we secured for her.
“With no alternative, we have had to take both Mum and child in for a month otherwise they will be homeless or in Medway. They will stay with us until March 1 when they will move into permanent accommodation provided by Prospects UK.
“The system is completely broken which makes it hard for anyone who is homeless to break the cycle. TDC has responded to the official complaint raised on Tuesday evening and will investigate what happened.”
Jack says that he has been flooded with calls from people in a similar situation since sharing the mum’s predicament on social media.
Thanet council says the case was sent to the Housing Options team to make sure that everything that could be done for the household was being done. The authority is unable to comment on individual cases.
The most recent rough sleeper count in Thanet recorded 11 people on the streets and 45 people receiving assistance from the RISE homelessness team. Some 199 households are in temporary accommodation. In June Thanet council said some 96 households were in temporary accommodation outside of Thanet.
In November Thanet District Council had more than 600 active ‘homelessness cases’, including those homeless, at risk of homelessness and being supported by rough sleeping services, or awaiting a council decision on whether to house them.
Thanet council receives around 1,000 homelessness applications each year. The council is landlord of 3034 properties but demand outstrips supply.
The authority recently opened Foy House in Margate to provide temporary accommodation with eight one and two bedroom flats. It is also aiming to expand its temporary accommodation by taking on a second project with £2.22m earmarked to buy another building or land or new build property.
The local authority says landlords serving section 21 eviction notices are one of a number of reasons for the increase in demand.
Thanet council Housing Team 01843 577277
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