Homeless children contract scabies from rat-infested emergency accommodation

Homeless children have contracted scabies from living in damp, rat-infested accommodation.

Family homelessness has soared in Manchester with the city council placing 1,400 families in emergency accommodation so far this year.

This compares to 120 placements in 2014 but the numbers have continued to rise as rents soar, and benefits stagnate.

Mum Katie told of how her family spent a year in emergency accommodation that was infested with rats, slugs and big black flies.

She was made homeless last year after the landlord of the home she lived in with her disabled children and grandchildren in Rusholme decided to sell up, reports the M.E.N.

With nowhere large enough available on the market, her family ended up presenting as homeless.

Katie said the house they were placed in was a "hellhole".

At one point, everyone in the house came out in a strange rash, which the walk-in centre said was scabies.

The agency told her to keep the door shut so the rats would stop getting in, she says, but she was told they were within the structure of the whole terrace.

“There were rats. Then the problem started getting worse because we started getting mice," she said.

“Then there was poo in the cupboards, leaks coming through the ceiling in my grandson’s room. There was the bath coming through the kitchen ceiling on a regular basis through the wiring, dead rats in the kitchen.”

Pictures show the horrendous conditions children in Manchester are living in with damp walls, pealing wallpaper and mice crawling though gaps n the skirting boards.

Another woman, Steph, who is pregnant and has a three-year-old boy, told of how she was in tears when the council checked her into a flea-ridden, drug-infested and notorious guest house.

The 22-year-old said: “He’s bored to death and he’s not got a single toy. I’ve had to lose half his stuff because I’ve got nowhere to put it.

“You’ve got to keep your pram downstairs during the day. I went out down the road with him and when I got back there was weed in it like someone had been leaning over, skinning up.

“I just want to get out.”

Elsewhere, single mum Chloe was placed in the same hotel last year with her children, after being evicted because her landlord wanted to put up their rent by £70 a week.

"It was horrible," she says.

"Me, my son and my daughter were three to a room, sharing a kitchen that was disgusting. I refused to use it. If we went outside for fresh air, there were alcoholics and drug addicts hanging around.

"We felt so unsafe. I wouldn’t even let her out to go to the takeaway round the corner on her own. My daughter started scratching – she was getting flea bites, both of us were. I cried every night."

There is a shortage of affordable housing, meaning families spend months on end in emergency accommodation.

At the Trussell Trust’s Fallowfield and Withington branch, manager Colin says he has repeatedly contacted both individual hotels and the council on behalf of parents who come in from across the city for ‘kettle packs’ – emergency food parcels that can be made using just the hot water in their rooms.

“The conditions people are living in are absolutely horrendous,” he says.

“The other week I had someone suicidal because they were living in one particular establishment. I know of one baby who was born while in there and the family is still there 12 months later.

“There was a family of five on the council’s waiting list given a duvet with cigarette burns that was filthy.

“We have had issues where we’ve had to ask the hotel to put the heating on, to make sure the beds weren’t covered in bloodstains. Places where the windows are broken: these are the conditions families are living in."

Manchester council is spending increasing amounts on bed & breakfast accommodation for homeless people.

In 2013, its hotel bill was £650,000. Five years later, it is £3m. The hotel Steph and Chloe stayed in received around £400,000 from the council in 2016.

Council officers insist families are only placed in such institutions for the shortest time possible, and that they are fully inspected.

Lauren Edwards, team leader at Shelter’s Manchester branch, has seen her family casework double in 12 months, to just under 700 last year.

She says ‘section 13’ notices, when landlords evict tenants at the end of their 12-month lease in order to put up the rent, are becoming an increasingly major factor – as well as ‘section 21’ evictions, when the landlord simply wants the house back, often to sell it.

“It’s becoming a bigger and bigger reason,” she says of the people coming through her door.

“People can’t access affordable homes.

“We see people looking on Manchester’s social housing website, Manchester Move, for years, and they’ve still not been offered anything.

“The council is facing a bottleneck, because rents are so high and there’s no social housing available.”

As a result, the council has seen rocketing numbers of families coming through its door, particularly from south Manchester.

After first placing a family in a bed & breakfast or hotel, it will then move them into temporary housing, usually provided by a private letting agency receiving a fixed rate of more than £200 a week in rent.

Manchester council’s expenditure on such accommodation has risen six-fold in the past five years, according to its FOI response: from £1.6m to just under £10m.

At a recent council meeting, the town hall admitted that it only has two officers checking the quality of the 1,400 houses it uses, at a pace of around 50 a month.

It’s estimated that 2,000 Manchester children will spend this Christmas in emergency accommodation.

Sue Murphy, deputy leader and the lead for homelessness, said the ‘sheer scale’ of the demand on its homeless service makes placing families ‘an ongoing challenge’.

The council is spending an extra £2m next year on homelessness services, she said, with cutting the number of families in B&Bs a priortiy.

It is also planning to buy up around 60 family homes across the city for temporary housing.

"In the case of both homes used for temporary accommodation and B&Bs we are reviewing the inspection regime with a view to further strengthening it," she added.

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