Homeless families trapped living in Travelodge hotels for months slam 'open prison' lifestyle

A child plays football in a Travelodge corridor
-Credit: (Image: Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon)


Sitting on the opposite side of the Thames from one of London's most iconic spots, Travelodge Kew Bridge appears to be an ideal spot for tourists interested in seeing the city's renowned Kew Gardens. However, despite its location, staying in the hotel has been labelled as a 'prison sentence' for some of its more unwilling guests.

This Travelodge, among many others across the capital, has become temporary housing for some of West London's most vulnerable people. From homeless people to women with their children fleeing domestic violence the building has become a place for those with nowhere else to go, who have been placed there by councils.

Placed in hotels for months at a time, these people have no access to kitchen facilities, refrigeration, space, privacy, or stability. The Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) spoke to a number of families with young children who have been trapped in the Travelodge for months as they await suitable council housing with no knowledge of when that might be.

READ MORE: London mum moved 220 miles away to Hartlepool by council after living in Slough and she's much happier

A silhouette photo of Sharon in her hotel room
Sharon says she feels like she lives in an open prison -Credit:Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon

Sharon (whose name we have changed for her safety) is one such person. She and her three children have shared a hotel room for five months with just two beds and a travel cot. There is little space in the hotel room which is dominated by the possessions she could grab before she fled her home in February to escape her violent partner.

Sharon told LDRS that she had initially reached out to Hounslow Council where she was a resident, but said she was directed to Ealing Council because it would better help provide her with emergency accommodation. However, little did Sharon know she would come to regret her decision.

She said: "When they first gave me a hotel I thought 'well it can't be that long' and I came here and I asked a lady 'how long have you been here?' to which she said 'do you want me to tell you the truth or do you want me to lie?' and when she said eight months I thought 'oh my God!'"

Having tried to leave Hounslow, Sharon had found herself back in the borough, crammed into a single room with no home amenities, not even able to warm a bottle to feed her child. Exasperated, she said: "It's like an open prison, that's how it feels, but I haven't committed a crime."

A Travelodge hotel room with unmade beds
Sharon has spent months living in cramped rooms with her three children -Credit:Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon

Ealing Council is spending up to £700 a week to house Sharon and her children, according to bills she has received with the family only being informed of their continuing stay on a weekly basis. Due to Travelodge rules, the family has to move room every month, meaning even the little stability they have is jeopardised regularly.

Sharon recently complained to the council about her treatment, claiming that her situation constituted overcrowding and saying the accommodation was unsuitable. Despite receiving a response back telling her that Ealing Council agreed her living situation was unsuitable, Sharon says they still made another booking for the same room the next week.

"They are the worst council I have been dealt with ever," Sharon told LDRS, "You email them and they just ignore you." Hemmed in and with no ability to cook fresh meals or refrigerate milk for her young son Sharon says that she had her children are forced to eat takeaways and fast food.

The mum joked that she was 'sick of the sight of McDonald's'. Without the basics of space and home-cooked meals, Sharon says that hotel life is having a detrimental effect on her kids, with two of them attending school but have limited space to do homework in a room designed for only the most temporary of stays.

Stacks of unhealthy food on shelves in a Travelodge hotel room
Residents are forced to eat out or eat unhealthy fast food due to lack of cooking facilities -Credit:Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon

Tariq Qamar is another long-term guest living in the Travelodge. He says he is 'heartbroken' by the situation he and his family find themselves in. Tariq's daughter Samir is severely disabled having been born with an undergrown leg which makes it extremely difficult to walk. He says living in the Travelodge has led to issues with her medical care and delayed potentially vital surgery.

He said: "It is the worst ever nightmare of our lives to stay at a hotel because we don't have any common kitchen here, we don't have a microwave, we don't have anything even to put our stuff. The real problem is I have a disabled daughter, she was disabled at birth, and she can't walk.

"She's 17, she's had half a dozen operations and she still can't walk." Tariq said the reason his family ended up in the Travelodge was due to a desperate trip to America to consult with experts about saving his daughter's leg.

He added: "The problem is they say we have three options, number one is amputation, amputate her leg, which none of us want. Secondly, take out her knee and straighten her leg for life and the third is to try and reconstruct the bone but this is a very long and painful procedure."

After 15 years of living in Southall, Tariq and his family left the UK and moved for five months to the US, speaking to the best in the business about reconstructing his daughter's leg. However, after lengthy consultations, Tariq was told the operation would cost $1.2m - an amount he simply could not afford. He returned to the UK, he appealed to Ealing Council for accommodation before ending up in the Travelodge in January 2024.

Outside of the Travelodge
The Travelodge has seen tourists rubbing shoulders with West London's most desperate people -Credit:Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon

Although he has two other children, who are five and 11, Tariq's primary focus is on his eldest daughter. He said: "To be honest with you. I am ok, my wife is ok, our two daughters are ok [in the hotel]. We are worried about [our eldest daughter's] future, we are worried about her operation, we are worried about her mental stress.

"It is a little bit mentally stressful for her to stay in a hotel. I have three kids; to stay in a hotel for two-three days is ok but for four months, it's a nightmare for them."

With it hard to find a surgeon capable of the procedure in the UK and it being too expensive to do in the US, Tariq says his daughter might be forced to amputate her leg. However, he says that this will be impossible while she still lives in the Travelodge.

"She is going to need aftercare," he explained. "Without a kitchen we cannot cook for her, we can't look after her. The nurse told us if [her leg] is amputated she could be in pain for weeks."

He says he has begged the council for help but had very little understanding. "I said to them please try to understand for my daughter, please try to understand and to be honest with you they didn't do anything," he added. "As a father of a disabled daughter, it is heartbreaking, it is a really sad feeling."

While Tariq contends with the massive burden of his disabled daughter's well-being other families also find themselves trapped in the winding opaque corridors of Brentford Travelodge. Zsu's kids have been forced to turn the faceless corridors into a football pitch just to remain sane. She says the family ended up in the hotel after their landlord raised their rent by £800 making their home unaffordable.

"I didn't want to leave the area because we have a community here," Zsu told LDRS, "but I did look because I thought maybe it would be much cheaper and it is not much cheaper at all, so I had no choice."

Children playing in the Travelodge hotel corridors
Zsu says her kids have cried about being stuck in the hotel -Credit:Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon

"I didn't want to leave London because their dad is here and I don't want them to not have a relationship with him so here I am." She has a ten-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter who are both enthusiastic about sports.

While Zsu says it could be worse, for her and her kids the extended stay in the hotel has started to take its toll. She said: "We have good days and bad days.

"For example last night my son was crying because he was asking why we couldn't have our own house, why couldn't we have our cats back. It's hard to adjust because it's not a home it's a hotel." With something as simple as preparing food not an option Zsu says that eating has become increasingly expensive and difficult, adding: "It's hard and costly to eat out twice a day."

'Families are being forced into homelessness'

Councillor Bassam Mahfouz is Ealing Council’s lead member for safe and genuinely affordable homes. He said: "What these stories highlight is the personal difficulties people across Ealing, London, and the country are now facing as a direct result of a housing crisis caused by this government's decisions.

“Ealing is at the sharpest end of this crisis, with mortgage rates soaring, landlords hiking rents, and many other landlords selling up and leaving the rental market altogether. This is forcing families like the ones you've spoken to into homelessness for the first time in their lives, giving them no choice but to turn to us for help. In the last year, more than 4,500 local households approached us as homeless – the highest rate in the region - and we have a legal duty to support almost 3,200 of them.

“Given the dramatic decline in the number of available rented properties and historically high levels of demand, there simply aren't the homes for us to place people into. Hence, we are left with no alternative but to place people in expensive, inappropriate hotel accommodation.

“Whilst the government is only making the situation worse, we are working on local solutions. We have agreed to invest £150 million in properties so that we can start to move families out of such accommodation into homes, and we have also recently leased an entire hotel which has the sorts of facilities and amenities absent from their local accommodation that families like these would benefit from.

“We can't fix this overnight, but we're taking every possible measure to deal with the crisis that has been caused by central government incompetence."

Hounslow Council’s Cabinet Member for Housing Management and Homelessness, Cllr Sue Sampson, said: “We can’t comment on individual cases. However, we can say that Hounslow Council is committed to providing a safe and fair living environment for all its tenants against ever-increasing pressure on local housing services.

“Our teams work hard to find the best solutions for the people who come to us for assistance but given the demands facing our services, this can take time. Hounslow Council works in partnership with colleagues at our neighbouring local authorities and we communicate with them regularly.

“Any household facing the threat of homelessness can approach any local authority for housing assistance. This council will then assess the application in line with homelessness legislation.

“As part of this process, a local connection test is applied. If the borough where the household has presented as homeless is satisfied that the household has a local connection, they will refer the household to that borough area.”

'A Travelodge hotel room is not a substitute for a home'

A Travelodge spokesperson said: "Travelodge recognises the pressure local authorities are under and how difficult this is for them and for the people who desperately need a home.

"Travelodge carefully manages any bookings made by local authorities and is in regular contact with Ealing Council, making clear that this is not a long-term solution as it is not a substitute for a home. Travelodge's focus is on ensuring all of its customers have a high quality experience."

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