Bexley mum forced to share bed with six-year-old son for nearly two years

Sophie Collins shown in her teenage bedroom in her mother's house, which she now has to share with her six-year-old son
Sophie Collins shown in her teenage bedroom in her mother's house, which she now has to share with her six-year-old son

A South London mum has been forced to share a bed with her six-year-old son for nearly two years after a local council wrongly accused her of deliberately making herself homeless.

Sophie Collins has shared a bed with her six-year-old son in her mother’s house in Erith, Bexley, since December 2020.

The mum said she was forced to move back into her teenage bedroom in her mother’s house after Bexley Council wrongly said she was intentionally homeless.

News Shopper: The teenage bedroom of Ms Collins in her mother\'s house, which she now has to share with her six-year-old son. Permission for use by all LDRS partners. Credit: Joe Coughlan
News Shopper: The teenage bedroom of Ms Collins in her mother\'s house, which she now has to share with her six-year-old son. Permission for use by all LDRS partners. Credit: Joe Coughlan

Ms Collins said the smaller space has been “stressful” for both her and her son, Frankie, who has autism.

She said: “He definitely needs a house and a garden because he’s just constantly on the go.

"It is very rare you’ll see Frankie sit down for longer than five minutes unless [something] grabs his attention.

"If it doesn’t grab his attention, he’s like a bull in a china shop.”

Ms Collins said she was asked in January 2020 by her landlord if she wanted to renew the contract on her old flat, as the owner planned to sell it to Bexley Council.

News Shopper: The teenage bedroom of Ms Collins in her mother's house, which she now has to share with her six-year-old son.
News Shopper: The teenage bedroom of Ms Collins in her mother's house, which she now has to share with her six-year-old son.

The teenage bedroom of Ms Collins in her mother's house, which she now has to share with her six-year-old son.

"Ms Collins said she asked if she could think about the decision, but got a letter through her front door a month later asking her to leave the property.

The mum said she feels she has been excluded from conversations between her former landlord and the council, and that she has never seen any proof “in black and white” that she declared herself homeless.

She said: “It’s very frustrating. I just don’t understand it. If only someone could just sit me down and explain why they took their word over mine.”

Speaking about how Frankie had reacted to the change, Ms Collins said: “He’s been excluded from school twice for hitting out.

"He’s trashed the classroom. He’s just very violent towards his peers and his teachers, which is the same at home.”

A council worker told Ms Collins their current home wasn’t suitable for them both. Ms Collins said: “She wanted to put it down as overcrowded.

"With Frankie’s medical needs as well, she said it’s a risk because he’s limited to space in there and Frankie needs a lot of space.”

After being placed in a temporary house for nine months before moving into her mum’s home, Ms Collins said she has often sent letters and forms for housing support to the council.

She said the council frequently said to her that their housing duty towards her has “ended”, due to her homeless status.

Gemma Szymanski, Ms Collins’ sister, said: “I keep saying it’s unfair, but it is. She should be able to have a little flat somewhere where Frankie’s got his own bedroom and she can go to her room every evening and just relax.

"But she’s constantly with Frankie so she gets no downtime. And it’s frustrating, getting no help.”

Ms Collins said she has to go to bed at 8pm every night to not disturb Frankie. She said: “I just want to be settled.

"Have my own front door, have Frankie in a school that benefits his needs, and just be happy. That’s all I’m asking for. I just want a roof over my head that I can call my home.”

A Bexley Council spokesperson told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that they do not comment on individual cases.

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