Woman left to sleep outside after struggling to find suitable housing

Adrian Williams

Adrian Williams

adrianw@baylismedia.co.uk

A woman in Maidenhead said she was forced to sleep overnight in a park after being shut out of her flat – following months of living with no electricity.

Eva Mak has been renting one of a group of flats at the end of the High Street and has been there for two years.

Due to issues beyond her control, there has been no electricity to any of the flats there for more than four months.

As such, Eva has no access to hot water or the ability to cook hot meals.

“Life is very, very hard when you can’t cook or anything. I’m charging my phone at work, cooking at work – my job [has become] very important for me for eating and drinking,” Eva said.

“I have no access to a washing machine and the refrigerator does not work, so inside there is no food. I had a fever and I couldn't even make myself a cup of tea.

“I just want to shower, cook dinner and put the food in the refrigerator.”

On May 20, the council issued an emergency prohibition order, which effectively bans living in the High Street flats.

In the view of the housing standards officer, it is a ‘hazard’ to live there, as without electricity, these flats present ‘imminent risk of serious harm to the health and safety of occupiers’.

The borough said this matter ‘remains under investigation’ and in such instances, any tenants remaining at the property are offered housing advice and accommodation, if required.

Eva has been trying to secure another place to live.

She said she was told a flat was available in Maidenhead by the council and registered her interest on May 17 – but says she did not hear back from them.

There has been a lot of back-and-forth contact between herself and council officers but ‘no solutions’, Eva said.

On Wednesday, July 20, Eva discovered that she had been shut out of the flat.

“I have nowhere to go, no one to stay with,” she said.

“They didn’t give me a hotel or anything. I had to sleep in the park.

“I had to go to my job very tired. I love my job but I can’t work like this. I’m depressed.”

On Friday, Eva was accepted to join the housing register under Band B – the second-highest priority – though the council is ‘unable to give an estimate’ of how long she will have to wait for housing.

In its initial response to Eva’s situation, on Tuesday, July 19, the council said:

“When a homeless household approaches the council for assistance, there are strict national legislation and guidelines that all councils must follow, which also sets out who is entitled to temporary accommodation pending the outcome of their application.

“Applicants are asked to provide information to help establish they are eligible, not already suitably housed, and have a priority need such as a medical vulnerability.

“Once an application for homelessness assistance has been made, the council has a duty to make inquiries to ascertain the facts of the case and determine whether the applicant is entitled to further assistance.

“All applicants who are homeless or at risk of homelessness are allocated a dedicated housing options officer who will offer them housing advice and discuss housing options and support available to them, including offers of properties in the private rented market.”

In a further comment yesterday (Wednesday), a council spokesman said: “The council works with homeless households to secure accommodation which is suitable for their needs.

"This sometimes involves the provision of temporary accommodation, but there is not always a duty on the council to provide this."

If a person is homeless or threatened with homelessness and is concerned about losing their home and would like some advice, they can complete a self-referral to the Housing Options Team online at: rbwm.housingjigsaw.co.uk/accounts/account/register"

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