Tower Hamlets: Mother housed by council minutes from where she was abused pleads for relocation

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Arisha said she has suffered from insomnia and anxiety since moving into the flat, and is worried about the long-term impact on her children.

A mother of four has said she and her children are “living a nightmare every day”, eight months after being moved into temporary accommodation just minutes from where she was abused as a child.

Arisha, who has given permission for her name to be used, said she has been desperately chasing Tower Hamlets Council, the local authority which placed her and her family in the flat, to move them elsewhere, but has so far received no assistance.

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A Tower Hamlets spokesperson said housing shortages mean households being placed out of borough are “sadly not uncommon”, and that, while Arisha’s flat is “by no means ideal…the accommodation does meet legal requirements”.

From Tower Hamlets to Sidcup

In September last year, Arisha and four of her children, aged between one and 11, moved back to Tower Hamlets from Brighton, where they had been living with her ex-partner.

The council initially based them in a hotel on a temporary basis, as often happens with local authorities facing housing shortages, but which have a statutory obligation to provide accommodation.

Arisha claims she was given assurances during this period by senior figures, including the mayor Lutfur Rahman, that they would not be moved out of the borough, with Arisha’s support network, and her children’s school, all local.

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However, Arisha said on a Sunday night last November, she was told she had to come to the council’s housing office, and to sign paperwork confirming she would be moving into her current flat in Sidcup, Bexley.

She claims she was in “quite a state”, but that “in the end I had to sign it”, adding: “It was getting late, I didn’t have money to get into a hotel that night.”

With just enough petrol to drive to her new flat in south London, Arisha said she and her kids were initially greeted by just one double bed and one single bed for the five of them.

Arisha said the flat is not suitable for her and her four children, and that when they first moved in, there was just one single bed and one double bed in the property. Credit: Arisha.Arisha said the flat is not suitable for her and her four children, and that when they first moved in, there was just one single bed and one double bed in the property. Credit: Arisha.
Arisha said the flat is not suitable for her and her four children, and that when they first moved in, there was just one single bed and one double bed in the property. Credit: Arisha. | Arisha

Another of Arisha’s children, aged 15, who still lives with his father, visits on weekends, making the flat increasingly cramped.

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Arisha said it was on the second night, when she took her daughter to the local hospital having fallen ill, that she realised she recognised the area.

Nearby is an address at which she says she was abused as a child.

Arisha said she has been struggling with insomnia and anxiety attacks, which she has not suffered from since she was 15 or 16. She has been unable to work, and has had to use food banks.

She said following her family’s relocation, she was regularly emailing the housing department at Tower Hamlets Council, but gave up after five months due to getting no reply.

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A spokesperson for Tower Hamlets told LondonWorld the local authority is yet to receive a formal complaint from Arisha, and that her housing officer has tried to make contact on a number of occasions, but received no response.

Arisha disputes this, saying the housing officer told her her location is “very far”, and that after asking the officer whether she can come into the office in Tower Hamlets to hand over her medical forms, she heard nothing else.

Arisha said a formal complaint has been submitted regarding her case. An email seen by LondonWorld appears to confirm this.

“We are living a nightmare every day,” she said. “My kids are getting up later and later, I can’t sleep.”

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As well as the four children she lives with, Arisha’s 15-year-old also stays on weekends, making the flat even more cramped. Credit: Arisha.As well as the four children she lives with, Arisha’s 15-year-old also stays on weekends, making the flat even more cramped. Credit: Arisha.
As well as the four children she lives with, Arisha’s 15-year-old also stays on weekends, making the flat even more cramped. Credit: Arisha. | Arisha

Arisha said she is concerned about the long-term impact on her children. Due to not thinking they would be living in south London for long, she said she has not entered them into a local school, and is currently teaching them at home. She also now believes her youngest may have autism, putting more pressure on her to resolve their housing situation as soon as possible.

“It’s getting a bit much,” she said.

Tower Hamlets Council

The council spokesperson said: “Housing shortages across London means that households being placed by councils out of borough are sadly not uncommon, given the current demand and shortage of accommodation. While we appreciate it is by no means ideal, the accommodation provided does meet legal requirements.

“We’ve tried to contact [Arisha] a number of times over the past few months to discuss her case, but our attempts to contact her have not been responded to. We continue in our efforts to reach out to her, to review her case and help her however we can.”

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