Krystal’s story of lockdown
Krystal is an asylum seeker. She is a victim of trafficking, she was smuggled to this country when she was a child. Now she has claimed asylum, and is housed by the Home Office.
Despite this extreme trauma, Krystal is a wonderful mum to her little boy. With him she is all warmth and cuddles – she kept us at arms length for the longest time. By turns fearsome and friendly.
She is absolutely passionate about standing up for what is right, and fights for herself and all our mums. She simply detests injustice.
It took us while to get used to her sense of humour – so very dry. But now we have she literally keeps us in stitches. She takes every opportunity to learn, to take part in all our workshops, to give voice to other less confident mums.
Her son is one tomorrow, he is so smiley happy, busy cruising around furniture. He is days from taking his first steps. He shouts and babbles so many pre-word noises now – during one workshop he gleefully shouted on one note for about sixty seconds – stopping the speaker in her tracks!
This is Krystal’s message to all of us from isolation (or as near to it as she can achieve).
It is a shame that it is weeks into this pandemic and we still have not heard anytime from our local housing officers. Not one form of contact – even if it is just a telephone call to check up and reassure us.
No information has been passed to me at all so far.
The people that live in the other units in our shared accommodation are still bringing friends to the house they are coming and going, some of them are are even staying the night.
One of my co-tenants has a friend that has been here with her since the night of lockdown.
We have no communal living area, and there is no TV provided in the house. Now that we are not allowed outside – we have been told to stay at home – I have been stuck in my tiny rooms with my child.
They have nowhere to play at all. There is no floor space around the bed in my room at all.
Anxiety and depression are beginning to kick in as we have no information. Nobody is contacting us, and we don’t even know how long this is situation is going to go on for.
Fazeela was made homeless when her private landlord decided to sell the property they were living in and served notice of eviction. The family was unable to find a place with rent low enough for them to afford.
“This was the worst time in my whole life” she says. “I had a seven month old baby and a three year old daughter. We were put up in a hotel on Romford Road. Our room was quite big compared to other people’s – we had a shower and toilet inside. But all the insects in the world lived in that room.
The cooker was not working in the kitchen, there was no space in the cupboards – they were full of tools and rat poison. The cooking queue started at 2pm. There were four fire doors between my room and the kitchen [so] I had to take the kids to the kitchen in the buggy and they would have to be there in the queue for hours. I did not want to buy takeaway for my kids every day.
My little boy learned to walk on the bed. I would keep him on the bed, not on the floor where there were insects, it was disgusting.
I cried the first day of my interview at the housing office. My little girl was crying too. It scared her to see me break down like that. It was so difficult, I was mentally fed up.
After my son was born I wanted to go back to work. I work in retail, but because of what we had been through, my son was so clingy that I could not settle him with the childminder, he was anxious. So I had to resign the job. My husband still works two jobs.
To them, we were just beggarsFazeela
The atmosphere in the hotel was horrible – the other people there were difficult and aggressive. My daughter still says, “do you remember mummy you argued with the man”, it is not nice but I had to. It is not nice that my daughter remembers that. Some people who live there are mentally unstable, some are straight from prison. Two and a half years later my daughter still remembers those times.
The night manager would not take our complaints seriously, he ignored us because we came from temporary accommodation we did not have value, we were just beggars.
Because there is no security, people can walk in and out. In the daytime it is OK but at night it is worrying. Some people are using cannabis, even needles. There were swear words on the wall written in graffiti.
When everything is in one room, you are cooking, you are washing, and you are eating. There is too much in the room so my kids have no place to play. My daughter said to me ‘Mummy when will you stop telling me NO?’. I had to say ‘when we get a new house to live in’.”
Grace and her children were living in a private rented house. There was a fire and it burned out.
“It was the middle of the night, I was sleeping with my children and I heard the neighbour shouting to me to get out. We were standing on the street. It was cold. It was November. At that point I had an application in with the immigration office. But I had no papers so when the police and the fire brigade came I did not want to talk to them. I was afraid. So a woman from the house opposite came and said to me “come inside, come to my house”. I went with her.
The house was full of soot, but I had nowhere else to go
The following morning people came and gave my neighbours papers to go to the council for help. But they did not give me papers to go to the council, even though I have children. The room I had been living in, in the house, was black and full of soot. But I stayed there. I had nowhere else to go. They told me the soot and the smoke in the air would hurt us if we stayed there but I had nowhere else to go.
Even though I had a letter from the landlord saying that he wanted me out of the house so that he could refurbish it after the fire, social services said they could not provide me with accommodation. They said that the letters did not prove I was homeless. Even if they did not believe the letters, they could have called the police and the fire services. They should have housed
I was living on my friend’s sofa. Two adults and three children in one room. It was too much. My friend became very hostile with me. Her child was ill, getting sick, getting colds and so on, so she said she could not cope with me being there.
She did not want me living with her, but I had nowhere to go, I did not want to leave, because I could not find anywhere else to go at all. She left the room and the landlady then rented directly to me .
Five families shared one bathroom
There were five rooms, five families. There were two toilets. The landlady used one for her family, and then the other four families used one toilet. If one person was in the toilet we needed to wait even though the toilet she used for her family was empty upstairs.
Five families shared one bathroom. The landlady and her grandchildren would be using the bathroom in the morning between 7 and 10. It was so cold in the house, there was no heating and no hot water. My children were not allowed out of our one room, they had to stay in there. I was not allowed to to cook in the evening because the landlady was in the kitchen. I was paying her £450 a month for a single room where I could not cook in the kitchen and I could not use the bathroom in the morning.
There were lots of mice in the kitchen. The food I had to cook for my children was full of mouse droppings and urine. How could anybody expect us to feed our children?
Newham council said they could not help
The landlady asked me to leave, she said the trouble was too much. I went to Newham Council for help, they said they could not help me. I did not have a tenancy agreement, the landlady did not give receipts. She did not give eviction letters. She said “at least I don’t deny you paid, I only ask you to pay once a month”. When I argued she said “Check your papers, if the police come in, they will ask for your passport. They won’t be interested in me, they will take your children away”.
Every day I would be crying inside my room. I did not have another place to go. I could not go out – I could not leave our shoes or my buggy outside in the hall, she told me it was too dirty. I wanted to take my youngest to the children’s centre, but it was so difficult to get the buggy out of the room. I just stayed at home
My children are growing every day. They need a room to grow up in. This morning when I came out of the bathroom, I was crying, I was saying to myself “We are living in poverty”.
In five years even if I am not comfortable, I want my children to be comfortable. My oldest child is starting reception. I don’t want him to feel ashamed of his situation.