Single mum put up in hotel by council overlooking her son's cemetery

Dorcas Micaba reads a book to her son in her flat
Dorcas Micaba was moved out to her one-bed flat in Slough by Redbridge Council and has to share a room with her two sons aged three and five years old -Credit:Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon

There is little comfort for those who are struggling to pay the bills in the crisis of housing in London and the UK. The crosshairs of housing despair have been levelled on Dorcas Micaba and her two young boys, aged five and three.

While being bounced around temporary accommodation, she said she was put in a hotel which overlooked the resting place of her third son, who died at childbirth causing a surge of depression.

She said: "It was so depressing. Every time I had to pass there I would just think about the past and it was really bad. It was awful."

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She has now been moved out to a converted former office block in Slough called Grand Heights. Here hundreds of people under Redbridge and Tower Hamlets Council housing duty have been shipped out of the capital and away from their homes and communities while they wait for permanent homes to become available.

Dorcas in her flat
Dorcas's temporary accommodation in a hotel in Aldersbrooke overlooked the cemetery where she laid her son to rest after he died at childbirth causing a surge in depression -Credit:Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon

Originally from Angola, Dorcas lived in Redbridge in 2018 with the father of her first son. They separated, after which Dorcas said she struck up a new relationship with the father of her second son. Again the relationship ended and Dorcas was left alone in a vulnerable position with her two young boys.

"I became homeless," she said, "I didn't have anywhere to go."

Dorcas became pregnant again during this period but in December 2020, her baby son died during childbirth. She said: "I was really stressed. I was depressed. A lot of things were going on."

Thankfully the pastor at her church kindly rented a B&B for her for a short period, she said, but this was not a permanent solution. Finally, in 2021 she turned to Redbridge Council who found her a shared property in Newham where she stayed for almost two years. Here she was supplied with family support workers but still felt "alone" and "lonely."

Dorcas reading to her son in her Grand Heights flat
"It has been difficult moving here because in London I have friends, I know people, but here I don't know anyone," Dorcas said when talking about being moved to Slough -Credit:Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon

When she had to move out in 2023, she said things did not improve as the family was put in a B&B in Gants Hill, Ilford. "That was really horrible," Dorcas said, "There was no fridge, no cooking space for me and my boys. Every time we had to eat out. Even when I tried to contact my housing officer she didn't respond to me."

After this, the Council moved her to another B&B in Aldersbrook, overlooking the City of London Cemetery - where Dorcas' son was laid to rest in December 2020. She said: "It was still devastating. Another depression bringing a lot of anxiety came on. Even when I wrote to them they didn't respond. I told the bereavement team what I was going through and that it was really depressing me going through all this all over again. I'm trying to forget the incident but it's not easy on me every time I pass there."

Grand Heights tower block in Slough
Redbridge and Tower Hamlets use this tower block, Grand Heights in Slough outside London, for temporary accommodation while they hunt for permanent places for them to stay - often outside of the capital and away from their homes -Credit:Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon

After help from the bereavement team, the Council offered Dorcas and her two boys to come to Grand Heights in Slough where she is living with her sons now in a one-bedroom flat. "I have to sleep in the same room as my two boys which is not convenient for me or them," Dorcas said, "Sometimes they need their privacy and I need my privacy."

Dorcas's belongings are also held up in expensive storage units or friends' homes as she cannot fit everything in their small flat. "It has been difficult moving here because in London I have friends, I know people, but here I don't know anyone," Dorcas said.

Many people have found the move outside of London and away from their lives there very hard, like a 19-year-old single mum who is facing eviction from the block after rejecting a new placement hundreds of miles north.

What has the council said?

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.

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