Hotel Homeless: The Scouse single mums trapped in Liverpool's housing crisis

Dozens of homeless single mums are living in a hotel in Liverpool
-Credit: (Image: InYourArea)

It is a blisteringly hot day in Liverpool and in the front garden of a large city hotel, a group of women are sitting and talking.

At first glance this may look like a pleasant scene. While the group of mothers sit and converse, their children - ranging from crawling babies to 11-year-olds are playing on the neat patch of grass in front of the hotel.

But the reality of this seemingly idyllic scene is both harrowing and heartbreaking.

All of these women and all of their children are homeless. They are all living in this hotel because they literally have nowhere else to go. Many have experienced trauma and fled from difficult or violent homes. Right now they feel trapped and lost.

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Liverpool is experiencing an acute housing and homelessness crisis, with more and more people losing their properties and being forced to live in temporary accommodation in hotels and bed and breakfasts while they wait - often for very long periods - for the prospect of once again living in a place they can really call home.

The city council has declared the situation an emergency and says it is overwhelmed with the number of people in need of help. The situation is beyond dire.

We have protected the identities of the many women we spoke to at the hotel and their location because of their difficult and sometimes dangerous situations. But they wanted to speak out. They wanted to be heard.

One woman, in her late 40s, breaks down in tears several times as she explains how she got to this point and the enormous impact her traumatic journey has had on her physical and mental health.

"In 2021 I got a letter from my landlord saying they were selling the house," she explains.

"He wanted it back, the rents in the area had gone up and I couldn't afford to pay another £300 a month. The only way I could afford a house is through the council or social housing."

Desperate not to be kicked out into the street with her 17-year-old son, the woman fought her eviction through the courts but was eventually told she had to be out in late May this year. She had no idea where they would end up next.

"I am in my late 40s and I have never had to beg in my life, but I was begging the council's out of hours housing team for help," she adds.

"I was spending five or six hours a day on the phone. Then they said they would put me in Warrington. But I don't drive and would have no way to get there, so they said I was refusing it."

This battle went on for 12 days. The woman and her son would find themselves on the streets before suddenly being placed in hotels or emergency accommodation all over the region. Eventually they arrived at this hotel.

"This hotel saved me," the woman adds. "Me and my son were on the streets every day. We would get placed somewhere for a night and then we would be moved. I had nothing left, my nerves were gone.

"My housing officer was asking for the impossible, saying you need this, you need that, telling me I hadn’t sent stuff over. At one point I was told I had been given a hotel for three nights, but when I rang back they said I had blanked an email and had the nights taken off me.

"I was going ‘please, please, no.” They ended up putting me somewhere in Kirkby near the motorway, we had from 10pm until 11am. They only told us where we were going at 10pm. To not know where you are putting your head from night to night is the worst trauma, especially for my son."

In the end she decided her only move was to head to the Cunard Building in Liverpool City Centre, where the city council is based. She refuse to move until she was listened to - eventually someone did and she was placed in the hotel at the end of May, where she and her son have remained ever since.

"These people here, the hotel staff, they have been my counsellors," she explains between tears.

"I have sobbed to grown men who work in this hotel and they have been here for me. They are having to deal with so much. I do not know where I would be today without these staff members. They all go above and beyond for us.

The woman was the third homeless person to come to this hotel after the council began using it to house people who had lost their homes. Now there are around 40 rooms full with mainly homeless single mothers and their children.

"I am glad to have a roof over our heads but I am sharing a tiny room with my 17-year-old son, we are living out of bags and we have no cooking facilities. We haven't got a penny and it feels like we have just been left here," the woman adds.

"I have been here for five weeks and I have heard nothing. Sometimes it feels like its down to whether the person on the other end of the phone likes us or not whether we will get a property to move in to."

This is just one woman's story at this hotel, she gestures to the group behind her, adding: "There are so many sad stories here."

At this point a young mother, aged 30, joins us. She has three children, aged between three and 11 and her story is about as traumatic as it gets.

Having split up with an ex-partner, the house she was living in became a target for gang violence.

"I was in bed with my kids one night and heard a gang trying to come through my door," she explains. "I phoned the police and I was told I wouldn't be moved because I didn’t fear for my safety - then a couple of days later it happened again," she recalls.

"I was on the floor begging for me and my kids to be put somewhere safe. I have never been in trouble in my life, I have always worked. Then I came home one day and my windows had been shot at."

Having contacted the council's Housing Options team, she and her children were placed in emergency accommodation at a service station on the M6 near Warrington.

"We had no support. My kids were living on McDonalds as it is all we could find."

She was eventually placed in this hotel and is equally grateful to the staff. "They have gone above and beyond for us, it feels like they are filling in where others are failing us."

This young mum has now been in the hotel for two weeks and has no idea how long her stay may last.

She says she is yet to have an application to rehouse her registered and feels like she is being targeted by social services.

"I am 30-years-old and I have three children. I never thought I would be in this situation and I am asking for support. I am on the verge of a breakdown, I just can't cope. I am literally just hanging by a thread for my children, I have got nowhere to turn."

She says her kids, two of whom have autism, are not coping well, adding: "I was the best mum but I feel like all of this is taking me away from that and I need support."

"I can’t sleep at night," she adds. "You don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring. You are wishing you get that phone call to say you have got a house. You don’t know who is going to come after you.

"It feels like they have just put us here and forgotten about us."

While the women at this hotel all praise the staff for their support, they are also grateful to each other. "We have all supported each other," says another woman. "We are providing counselling for each other."

They all feel frustrated by their communication with the council's housing team, which the local authority says is now completely overwhelmed. The women talk of long waits for information and a lack of empathy from some of those at the other end of the phone.

"You try and get hold of someone but you can’t," says one mum. "I just want to protect my kids and live a good life. The girls here have all come together to support each other."

Sitting around the table with the wider group, the traumatic stories keep coming. One very young mother, who is just 20, lost her mum three years ago and became homeless with her young baby.

"I was put in a one-bed flat but I was only 17, I had no support and fell into arrears."

She has been homeless since May and was moved into this hotel. Like the others, she has no idea how long she will remain in this state of limbo.

"I feel like I am in prison," she says. "The people in the hotel are doing their best," says another mum. "But we don't have anyone here to directly support us and we are all struggling. There is a lot of trauma here.

"I am lucky that my kids are at an age where they don't quite understand what is going on, but I am worried about them. We are all worried about our kids.

"We are only speaking up because we have all realised we are in this position together - how many more people out there are struggling? How many are sitting there scared to speak out? Something needs to be done."

When asking this group of women what one thing they would ask of the council's housing services team given the chance, they all say the same thing.

"Please just listen," explains one mum. "Listen and communicate with us," adds another.

Another mum adds: "I have been here for eight weeks and I still don't even know what property band I am supposed to be in. My housing officer hasn't been in touch since I have been here."

The mental anguish some of these women are feeling is now so severe that it has even made them consider returning to the dangerous situations that they have escaped from.

"There are women here who have got out of domestic violence relationships," one mum explains. "Some have considered going back there because of how long this all takes. I was on the verge of going back.

"None of us asked for this and our kids certainly didn't," she adds.

For its part, the city council says it is under enormous pressure with the sheer volume of people now requiring emergency accommodation and housing. A perfect storm of rising rents, the cost of living crisis and a sever shortage of social or council housing in the city has seen this situation drastically explode in recent years.

In the financial year of 2010/11 there were just 57 homeless households being put up in emergency accommodation by the council. Last year that number stood at 658.

This sudden growth in homeless people needing support comes after years of swingeing budget cuts for the council. It is projected that in this financial year the cost of temporary accommodation could rise to an enormous £30m.

Last year the council's leader Liam Robinson declared a housing and homelessness emergency in Liverpool and wrote to the government asking for urgent help. His pleas fell on deaf ears.

The council says it is taking these cases very seriously and is trying to resolve them as fast as possible and will be visiting the hotel next week to sit down with the individuals staying here. The local authority's case load in this area is seven times higher than it was five years ago.

This all means that for the single mums living in this hotel - there is no certainty about what happens next, where they will end up or whether they will have a place to call home for them and their children.

During a discussion rife with heartbreaking moments, perhaps the most upsetting comes right at the end.

One mum brings her seven-year-old daughter over to the table in the front garden of the hotel and asks her, 'if you had one wish, what would it be?"

The girl looks up with a sadness etched across her face and responds.

"A better life."

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