A Birmingham mum has told how she and her four children have been stuck in temporary accommodation for FOUR years.
Toni Estevez became homeless following a relationship breakup. She moved to a shelter with her children because she had nowhere to go.
Unfortunately, his eldest was 18 and considered too old for the shelter. So she had to make other arrangements for him, which she said was heartbreaking.
Read more – Birmingham mum bids on 650 council homes in 5-year wait – what she did to survive
Toni said she had to leave the shelter after learning that their liability did not cover her autistic children.
She called numerous housing authorities and Birmingham City Council placed the single mother and her children in a Travelodge. They arrived in May 2017 with just six trash bags between them.
Ten days later they were moved to ‘unsuitable’ temporary accommodation in Frankley – and have been waiting from their permanent home.
“That first Christmas I told my kids we wouldn’t be here next Christmas just to give them some hope,” said Toni, 38, whose youngest children are Rene, 13, Amari, nine, Kayden, seven, and Lilly. , Three.
“We have now spent four Christmases here. Little Kayden wrote a letter to Santa at school saying he was going to be very good and that Santa could give us a home?
“I saw it and realized I had to stop promising my kids we were going to move into a house because they’re starting to think it’s something they do. Kayden grabbed me and hugged me really tight the other day and said, ‘Mom, if I promise to be really good, will we move out?’
“René draws pictures of houses with gardens and trees, it breaks my heart.”
Both Rene and Kayden have asthma and Toni had to rush to A&E 18 times after one of them struggled to breathe. She attributes this largely to the mold and dampness they have to live with in their first-floor apartment.
The family was separated over Christmas 2021 as René ended up in intensive care due to his condition. Toni said she was lucky that her mother was able to come and take care of the other children.
René also suffers from scoliosis and hypermobility, which makes it very difficult for him to walk up and down the stairs to their apartment. He falls and struggles to get out. René and Amari are both autistic.
“I feel like we’ve been left behind and forgotten,” said Toni, who worked in recruitment until she was laid off and then took a job as a van driver. She is now a full time mom to her children.
“This trip has been an emotional rollercoaster. We just want a place we can call home.
“When you’re homeless, you don’t even get talked to like you’re human. Because you’re in temporary accommodation, people make assumptions about you. It doesn’t make me feel good, I’m not not homeless by choice.of my own.
“I show courage for the children, but we can’t live forever in a temporary apartment. Temporary accommodation doesn’t seem very temporary when it’s been going on for so long.”
Toni is now supported by Shelter to try to help her find a safer and more secure home for her family.
According to a new study by Shelter, six out of ten homeless people living in temporary accommodation are women.
The charity’s new report, Fobbed Off, says the number of homeless women living in temporary accommodation in England has almost doubled in the past decade, from 40,030 in 2011 to 75,410 today. today, an increase of 88%.
For free, expert advice on homelessness and temporary accommodation, visit the Shelter website here. You can also donate here
“There’s mold in the apartment, I’m constantly cleaning,” Toni said. “The walls are damp to the touch and you can feel a breeze coming in through the living room windows. It took us six months to fix the shower as chunks of concrete were falling off with every wash.
“I have been bidding on properties since 2017 but for some reason I was listed as needing a five bedroom property I have been fighting for two years saying I qualify for a four bedroom property This has finally been changed now so hopefully there may be more options available to me now.
The temporary apartment has a garden, but Toni says it’s so overgrown that trees and weeds tower over her head and her children can’t get in.
She couldn’t get help cleaning it and was quoted £300-400 for professional cleaning, which she can’t afford.
“I’m lucky to be on Universal Credit, so I’m careful to allocate enough money each week to spend on our food and our bills,” Toni said.
“It’s difficult, but I have to make it work. I often have to run errands as we only have a very small fridge so I can’t store more than enough for about three meals at a time.
“I would like the children to be able to use the garden, but that’s just not possible. It is very hot here in the summer. I just have to rely on the kids being able to run during their recess at school.
“I take them to parks and for picnics as much as I can, but it’s difficult.
“When we first moved in the housing officer said you wouldn’t be here very long and I hung on to that, but it’s been so long now it’s heartbreaking.
“The kids have friends at school who all have houses with gardens and it breaks my heart to go to friends parties and see my kids so excited to have space to run around in. a garden.
“We would so love to have a garden that we could use.”
What Birmingham City Council says
A spokesperson for Birmingham City Council said: “We are sorry for the distress caused to our tenant by the damp and mold in his apartment. A contractor will be on site to investigate and deal with the problem.
“We are going through a national housing crisis and as Britain’s largest local authority this has resulted in a very long waiting list as demand for our homes far exceeds supply, particularly for larger properties .
“Tenants’ housing manager will be in contact with them to discuss their housing options in accordance with the advice allocation policy, including renting in the private sector, which is currently the fastest way to find a property. bigger.”
Homeless women – the statistics
Shelter has commissioned a new YouGov poll that shows the dramatic impact of affordability issues for homeless women:
- Among those with housing costs, women are 36% more likely than men to be in arrears or constantly struggle to pay housing costs – this equates to 4.7 million women
- Single mothers face the most acute affordability challenges, with nearly one in three in arrears or constantly struggling to keep a roof over their heads – that equates to 321,000 single mothers
- 69% of women who rent privately fear they won’t be able to afford decent accommodation if their relationship breaks down – this equates to 2.7 million women
Shelter then 34 women and one non-binary person living in Birmingham, Bristol and Sheffield who were either homeless or living in precarious accommodation at the time. Key Findings Revealed:
- Domestic violence is the third most common cause of homelessness. A third of respondents had experienced domestic violence, which often triggered their housing problems
- Single mothers are the hardest hit – 1 in 38 single mothers are currently homeless in England. Respondents said they faced additional barriers to accessing help, with some revealing they had not asked for help for fear their children would be taken away from them.
- Rising private rents and the lack of affordable social housing is a major problem. Nearly three-quarters of those surveyed struggled to pay their housing costs. Several said their housing allowance did not cover the rent, others had to borrow money from family or friends
- Women are more likely to claim housing benefits and be hurt by welfare cuts. Two-fifths reported problems with housing allowances, including discriminatory behavior by landlords and social restrictions such as the ceiling on allowances, which meant they could not afford adequate accommodation.
- A common obstacle was being treated badly by professionals. Two-thirds said professionals made them feel like a burden or re-victimized them, one woman described feeling “rejected”. More than half said they didn’t know where to get help or how to navigate a maze of services
Polly Neate, Managing Director of Shelter, said: “Women are bearing the brunt of our escalating housing crisis, and they are failing at every turn. No mother should have to choose between buying food or paying rent. No woman should have to stay with her abuser or face the street.
“The rising cost of living and cuts to Universal Credit mean it will only get harder for thousands of women who are barely clinging to their homes. It is appalling that women are being scammed by professionals who are supposed to help them, and it’s no wonder they feel scared and alone.
“If we want to reverse the tide of homelessness among women, we need to listen to women and better understand their needs. For women who feel like there is nowhere to go, Shelter is there. Our emergency helpline is open 365 days a year so no one has to face homelessness alone.
To donate to Shelter’s Winter Urgent Appeal, click here. Just £10 could answer a call to Shelter’s national emergency helpline, allowing a trained counselor to give expert advice and support to help women and families keep or find accommodation .
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