Temporary housing through the eyes of a child

A child in temporary housing appeals to Lambeth council to give his family a safe and permanent home – Aaliyah Harry reports

family with banner
Janeth and her childen with their home-made banner.

Janeth Gomez, her partner and their four children have lived in five temporary accommodations in Brixton and South London since 2014. 

Her eight-year-old son has spent more than half of his life living in temporary accommodation, while her three other children, aged six, four and two, have lived in these unstable and poor conditions for their whole lives. 

Janeth’s son said: “Each house they move us to has rats and bedbugs.

“Our house is so dirty each time we move, and I feel bad for my family because they are really sad.” 

In March 2020, The Lancet published a report highlighting the devastating effects COVID has on children living in temporary housing.

The medical journal reported: “In particular children five and under living in temporary accommodation have an invisible plight that might not seem obvious to many people. 

“Because they are not classified as living on the streets or homeless but are perhaps the most susceptible to viral infection because of pre-existing conditions.”

The damp walls and mould in the temporary houses have meant the children need to use inhalers during the winter. 

The eight-year old says: “Every time my sister, me, and my mum get sick we have to go to the doctors. 

“The doctors tell us that we are really sick, and we should stay at home and be safe, but home isn’t safe.”

An increase in demand for housing combined with decreasing resources has led to the council providing temporary housing with the added stress of instability. 

“Every time we move, I have to change school and lose all my school friends,” says the eight-year-old.

“Now I live in Croydon and my school is in Mitcham. It’s really far and I have to wake up really early in the morning.

“I have to get on the bus and then I go on a tram.”

house dirt and damp
Damp and dirty: The poor condition of the family’s temporary housing.

According to UNICEF: “The first 1,000 days can shape a child’s future. We have one chance to get it right.” 

Elizabeth Wyatt, a volunteer with Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth, has advocated for the Gomez family to receive permenant housing for four years. 

Wyatt said: “When Janeth’s youngest child was not even one year old, we saw the rashes on her arm caused by the scabies infestation in their home. 

“We have also seen the constant stress, anxiety and severe depression that Janeth suffers as a result of the housing conditions and the effects on her children’s health. 

“There is no doubt that over six years of unstable living conditions and poor-quality housing are severely impacting the health and wellbeing of her young family and it is very urgent that this is taken seriously by Lambeth council.”

A Lambeth council spokesperson said: “The council is sympathetic to Janeth’s concerns and looked into her circumstances.

“We are aware she is seeking a permanent council house, but the significant shortage of this type of housing means we are unable to say when one might be available.

“The council is determined to build new social housing via its wholly-owned housing company, Homes for Lambeth, and its programme of estate regeneration.

“But we will still struggle to meet all demand which, in part, is due to a long-term lack of government investment in social housing.”

For Janeth’s son his wishes for his family are clear.

He says: “I want to ask the council please stop changing our house. 

“I would please like to ask for a beautiful house so I can live happily with my family and have a good time together, I would thank them so much.” 

Janeth and family are waiting for an answer from Lambeth council on the status of their permanent housing application. 

If awarded a “Band B” application for medical and health issues, the family could go on to successfully bid for permanent housing.