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Grenfell Tower survivors put in B&B with no shower, says councillor

The Guardian logo The Guardian 6 days ago Amelia Gentleman
Screengrab of councillor JudithBlakeman speakeing on Good Morning Britain.: Councillor Judith Blakeman was told about poor bed and breakfast conditions at a meeting with survivors. © ITV Councillor Judith Blakeman was told about poor bed and breakfast conditions at a meeting with survivors.

Some survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire have been housed in poor quality bed and breakfast accommodation with no functioning showers, according to the local councillor representing residents of the block.

While most survivors were content with the hotel accommodation they had received, at least two single men had been housed in “really horrible B and Bs”, Labour ward councillor Judith Blakeman said. Blakeman attended a private meeting of survivors on Monday, where she heard that one man was moved from a very basic and dirty room to a second substandard bed and breakfast where the showers were not working, she said.

Five days after the Grenfell Tower fire, officials called in to help Kensington and Chelsea with the relief effort expressed shock that there was still no central list of all the people affected and in need of help, amid continuing criticism of the council’s response to the crisis.

All the latest news, views and opinion on the Grenfell tragedy

The transfer of responsibility for the aftermath of the tragedy to London Resilience, a city-wide emergency response team, has led to improved efficiency, those involved in the disaster relief operation said. By Monday evening, 126 households from the tower and the damaged block immediately at the foot of the building had been housed in hotels in or close to the borough.

The emergency response team dismissed rumours that anyone would be rehoused far from their original homes. “It is absolutely not the case that anyone is being placed a long distance away. We have endeavoured to keep accommodation as local as possible, and we completely accept residents’ wishes to remain close to the community,” the new official coordinating body, the Grenfell Response Team (which has representatives from London-wide local government, central government, British Red Cross, the Metropolitan police and London fire brigade) said in a statement. Over £200,000 of government money had been allocated to 180 families, and 78 out of the 126 families who had lost homes had been interviewed by a housing officer.

Mike Adamson, chief executive at the British Red Cross, said the organisation had significantly increased its involvement in the response. Amid concern that some victims were unregistered asylum seekers, whose families were nervous about reporting their loss to the police, he said: “Our refugee services are working to find anyone who is undocumented and worried to present to the authorities.”

Related: Grenfell Tower fire: Families and firefighters hug (Provided by ITN News)


But Blakeman expressed frustration at the continuing chaos in the relief effort, pointing out that as the local councillors, the closest representatives to the residents, she and a colleague had still not been given any answers on behalf of the survivors and had been given no instructions about who to contact now that Kensington and Chelsea had been relieved of responsibility for the operation.

“We have been on the ground since 5am on the day of the fire and we have been given no information about who we should contact to get help for the survivors. It’s absolutely shocking,” she said. Emails she had sent to Kensington and Chelsea housing officials passing on residents’ concerns remained unanswered.

She said she was struck by how “incredibly resilient and robust” the survivors were. The survivors’ primary anxiety was over where they would be rehoused permanently. “Their concern in the longer term is that their community will not be rebuilt,” she said. There was also some worry over whether residents would be obliged to accept the first offer from the council of a new home, regardless of its location.

“What we are hearing is that the council are saying they are going to offer some of us housing outside the borough and if we refuse it then we are deliberately making ourselves homeless. Please, please give me some assurance that this isn’t true, can someone from the powers-that-be come to visit us,” one man, who escaped from the fire, requested in an email to Blakeman.

It was not possible to verify whether this concern was justified, but Blakeman said it was symptomatic of the lack of information from officials. “He urgently needs to be reassured,” she said.

Survivors of the fire have not been told how long they are to be in hotel accommodation, and have to make a telephone call every day to see if they are staying another night, which was adding to a sense of insecurity, she added.

Some families who live in low-rise blocks adjoining the tower, who were initially given hotel accommodation, were told on Monday that they should return to their homes on the estate, despite the absence of hot water, and residents’ concerns about pollution and the risk of falling debris.

“The people who were evacuated are being asked to go back to flats that have no hot water and where there has been no risk assessment. There needs to be a printed copy of the fire safety risk assessment,” she said.

Beinazir Lasharie, another Labour ward councillor who lives in a block at the bottom of the tower, said she had not got the reassurances she needed about the safety of her flat, which is just 20 feet from the ruined building. She said she felt officials had treated her “like a nuisance” when she asked questions about air quality, fire safety and the risk of debris from the building.


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