Barking and Dagenham council forced to defend homelessness policy

Shelley Harlow shares a room, and a bed, with her four-year-old daughter Maisy Gosling, in temporary

Shelley Harlow shares a room, and a bed, with her four-year-old daughter Maisy Gosling, in temporary accomodation in Barking - Credit: Archant

A mother forced to share a bed with her four-year-old daughter has spoken out about the realties of homelessness after a group of MPs slammed local council advice as “too often meaningless and ineffectual”.

A homeless man is given a hot meal at Barking Foodbank

A homeless man is given a hot meal at Barking Foodbank - Credit: Archant

Shelley Harlow, 28, was kicked out of her ex-partner’s parents’ house following a break-up and forced to sofa-surf with daughter Maisy, alternating between friends in Dagenham and her mum in Chelmsford.

After seeking help from Barking and Dagenham council she is now sharing a bedroom in The Foyer, in Wakering Road, Barking.

Despite claiming she was told her temporary stay would only last 56 days when she moved in on May 5, she is not expecting a change anytime soon.

And with temperatures allegedly soaring up to 30 degrees Celsius in the room, Shelley regularly suffers black-outs while Maisy, who will start at Dorothy Barley Infant School next week, drinks so much water that she regularly wets the double-bed that the pair are forced to share.


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“It’s just not acceptable,” she said. “Sometimes my daughter doesn’t get to sleep until gone 11.30, before this she asleep by 7.30 every night.

“It’s so hot that I had to put her back in pull-up [nappies] because she was drinking so much. As a parent I want to give her the best start in life but I can’t do that here – it’s so unfair.”

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A report by the Communities and Local Government Select Committee published on Thursday found homeless people are too often “badly treated” by councils.

They also confirmed suspicions that homelessness numbers are rising and called for a new government plan to tackle the issue.

“Many homeless people seeking support from their council are made to feel as if they were at fault and that councils can take steps to discourage applications,” they said.

“People who are judged as not being in priority need, and therefore not owed the full homelessness duty, are also poorly served.

“Councils have a duty to provide advice and guidance to such people, but too often advice and guidance is meaningless and ineffectual.”

Responding to Shelley’s situation, a council spokeswoman said: “Following Miss Harlow’s homeless application full housing duty was accepted on May 5 which means she is able to bid for a council property.

“In the interim Miss Harlow has been provided with temporary accommodation, which she claimed was unsuitable. We are currently reviewing her complaint.

“She has since submitted new medical information which we are investigating and have sought information from her doctor.”

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