Single mum faces eviction after refusing to move 260 miles from London to Hartlepool

Olivia's silhouette against the sky outside the Grand Heights tower block
Olivia cannot face being moved all the way up north when her support system and life is based here in London -Credit:Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon

Vulnerable, alone and facing homelessness. Olivia is a single mum who is just 19 years old and is currently at risk of being evicted from her temporary accommodation in Slough by Redbridge Council after being moved there miles from her family.

Olivia, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, suffers from PTSD, anxiety and depression due to her difficult past and she went to Redbridge Council for housing help as she had nowhere else to go. As a temporary home, the council ended up housing her and her two-year-old daughter in a flat in a tower block named Grand Heights, in Slough. She says this stripped her of her London-based support system.

To make matters worse she is now being told to leave the flat in Slough because two weeks ago the council informed her it found a two-bedroom property for her and her daughter but with a catch - it is all the way up north in Hartlepool. She's turned down the offer because of the huge distance and now the council says she'll be evicted because her refusal means she is making herself 'intentionally homeless'.

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Olivia said: "Redbridge Council just doesn't want to help me out. They've literally just signed me off, closed my case and they're not helping me or trying to contact me whatsoever. They didn't direct me in any way - I didn't know that if I didn't accept this offer I would be deemed as intentionally homeless."

She added: "The way they've treated me, they made me second guess myself and second guess myself as a mother because of the way they look at me and treat me in general. It has been so horrible, so traumatic."

A general view of the Grand Heights building in Slough
Redbridge and Tower Hamlets Councils use Grand Heights as a place to put hundreds of people in temporary accommodation while they wait to be given permanent homes -Credit:Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon

She first petitioned for the help of Redbridge Council in October last year. Speaking to MyLondon she said in order to get noticed by them she went to Redbridge Town Hall daily for two weeks "with bags and a buggy from 9am until 5pm to try and get attention for help".

Finally, she was put into a hostel by the council on October 19. However, later that month she said she was kicked out overnight. She said: "They just kicked me out and I was left on the streets and it was pouring down with rain. It was during October and it was freezing cold, me and my daughter were just sitting outside crying."

The council then offered her the self-contained flat in Slough after she went directly to the town hall again to ask for help, she said. The Slough flat was meant to be a temporary situation while the council found her a permanent place to live.

Olivia was initially told Redbridge Council would be passing her over to Nottingham Council because they believed she had family up there. However, Olivia said this wasn't the case and that the council had mixed her case up with someone else's who did have connections in Nottingham. After she protested, saying she didn't know anybody in Nottingham and the move would take her away from her support system, the council apologised, she said.

Olivia's shadow cast on the ground
Olivia and her two-year-old daughter face homelessness after they could not accept leaving their whole life behind and moving to Hartlepool. Olivia has been calling homeless shelters to let them know she might be arriving in the coming weeks -Credit:Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon

After the mix-up, the council offered Olivia and her daughter the two-bed property in Hartlepool on a six-month assured shorthold tenancy. She explained why she could not accept the offer. She said: "I immediately rejected it because I can't go that far again. I suffer with severe mental health and I've got a support system here now, as well as in London. I can't get it stripped away all over again - put my daughter through all that all over again. It's just not fair on her nor me."

Because of her rejection, she has been told she will be evicted from the Slough and that the council is discharging its housing duty over her as she has been deemed to have made herself 'intentionally homeless' and the offer is no longer available to her. On April 18 she was asked to leave the Slough flat by the council and again on April 28, but on both occasions she's refused and says she's told the management of the building of her circumstances and that they are understanding.

She said she is now contacting a solicitor to help her situation and has moved her daughter into her grandmother's house back in London. Olivia said there was no support or advice for her after she was discharged, no shelters mentioned or advice on next steps she could take with Slough Council.

She said: "The council did not direct me in any way that I can possibly go. They just left me to be homeless." Olivia has taken the initiative to contact shelters herself to "let them know that this could be a possibility, that [she] could be homeless".

She said she has already had to give up her life as a student in Essex because of being moved to Slough, however, the building she has been moved to is filled with other people in similar situations - sent there by Redbridge and Tower Hamlets Councils. There is a good sense of community and a new support system has been forged for her there. She said: "If it wasn't for this building, if it wasn't for this community that I have now, I would be struggling."

What did the council say?

Redbridge Council is fighting against a housing shortage which has meant more and more people are having to be housed outside of London in Council-provided temporary accommodation, the Council said. Homelessness applications to Redbridge rose by 49% from 2019/20 to 1417 in 2022/23 according to their records. On average, the waiting list in Redbridge for a three-bedroom property is 16 years.

The lack of availability and affordability within the private rented housing market sharpened considerably in 2022/23 due to the increasing number of landlords leaving the private rented market entirely and the cost-of-living crisis, the Council said.

A Redbridge Council spokesperson said: "We fully sympathise with [Olivia] and her living situation. She has been provided with temporary accommodation in Slough and was offered a permanent property, which she has refused.

"Regrettably, Redbridge and the rest of London is currently grappling with a severe housing crisis exacerbated by years of chronic government underinvestment in social housing. On average, the waiting time in Redbridge for a three-bedroom property is 16 years. The scarcity of affordable homes has forced councils across London to rely on temporary accommodation, much of which is outside of the capital."

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