Kensington and Chelsea may have just avoided another major embarrassment after Grenfell

Report on the treatment of seven women living in a refuge by organisations in the borough of Kensington & Chelsea.

First published in The Canary on 31 July 2017:

Residents in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) are under pressure once more. After the media furore over RBKC’s treatment of Grenfell Tower survivors, seven vulnerable women and their children have battled to remain in the borough; because moving would be devastating.

The Canary spoke to the women as they waited for council officers to see them on Monday 31 July.

Things slowly worsen

The seven women currently live in a refuge managed by Hestia, a charity providing housing support. And the property is owned by the Notting Hill Housing Trust (NHHT) housing association.

With six children among them, aged between two and seven, the women have lived there for varying periods over the last year, having fled domestic violence. While the residents were content in the property and settling into the area, over the preceding two weeks the property’s conditions have slowly deteriorated.

One woman told The Canary that she moved to the refuge with her daughter thinking they’d be safe. She said: “We enrolled in local schools, got involved in local charities. We tried to rebuild our lives after we got displaced, essentially.”

She explained that they had some problems with the property over the preceding two weeks, including the fire alarm going off all the time. And a leak coming through the ceiling gradually got worse. On the evening of Friday 28 July, the ceiling actually started caving in on the upper floor, so they moved downstairs. All of the women and children have been staying in the living room and sleeping on mattresses on the floor ever since.

They asked Hestia to do something. But the only option the charity gave them was to move to a refuge in Barking, approximately 12 miles away; something they’re unwilling to do for seemingly good reasons.

On the morning of 31 July, Hestia turned off the electricity. According to the women from the refuge, Hestia expected them to leave the property and started ignoring their phone calls, which is when they came to the council.

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