Grenfell Tower survivors demand urgent action on rehousing ahead of Christmas

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Grenfell Tower survivors have demanded "urgent action" on rehousing after it emerged four out of five displaced families are facing Christmas without a proper home.

Almost six months on from the deadly blaze, in which 71 died and hundreds were made homeless, 103 households from the block remain in hotel rooms.

A further 11 are in serviced apartments and four are staying with loved ones - meaning 118 remain in emergency accommodations, Kensington and Chelsea Council announced on Tuesday.

The local authority was accused of making "one broken promise after another", having previously expressed confidence every survivor would be out of emergency rooms by Christmas.

In the immediate aftermath of the June 14 inferno, Theresa May initially appeared to pledge that everyone left destitute would be in temporary new homes within three weeks.

So far only 42 families have moved into permanent addresses, meaning the remaining 166, including 48 temporary places, could spend the festive period without a new home, survivors say.

Where survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire have been rehoused (PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

There were 208 families in need of rehousing following the disaster, according to council figures.

Shahin Sadafi, chairman of Grenfell United - an elected body set up by survivors and bereaved relatives, said: "First it was three weeks, then six months now they are saying a year. For the survivors and affected families it seems like one broken promise after another. At this rate it could take the council almost two years to re-home people.

"We are talking about people who have been through the traumatic events and have lost so much, stuck in hotel rooms and make-do accommodation. No one can even start to rebuild their lives until they are in a place they can call home. It's been six months and we're now just a fortnight away from Christmas. It's not too late to put this right but it needs urgent action now."

In addition to those who have already moved into a permanent address, 82 have accepted permanent housing offers.

Currently 29 of the families still in hotels have children, council figures show.

A fractious public meeting of the scrutiny committee that oversees the Grenfell Tower response on Tuesday night saw the local authority attacked by former residents.

Tiago Alves, a 20-year-old tenant of the 13th floor, told the meeting: "You are trying to eat away at us slowly, slowly, slowly, in an attempt to break us up."

Deputy council leader and cabinet member for housing Kim Taylor-Smith admitted rehousing had been "desperately slow", but this was initially due to a lack of houses to offer survivors.

It is hoped 300 houses will have been acquired by the council in time for Christmas, he added.

With the prospect of many survivors, including children, waking up in a hotel on Christmas morning, festive events are being organised in the west London neighbourhood.

The Curve centre will be opened on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Years Day, Tuesday's meeting was told, and a communal Christmas meal is in the pipeline.

Health workers have also been warned that the holidays could bring a heightened risk of suicide among survivors.

Mary Weale, communities lead at Kensington and Chelsea Council, said on Tuesday: "Suicide prevention is not only about making sure people have access to the right services, but effectively identifying those at risk and focusing on them.

"We are here to listen, we are here to improve and we will do whatever we can to make sure no-one slips through the cracks and everyone gets the help they need."

Cllr Elizabeth Campbell, leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council, said: "Our priority is to find permanent homes for the 209 households from the Tower and Walk who lost their homes in the fire.

"Forty-two households have so far moved into their new homes. Another 41 have accepted an offer for their permanent new homes. Every week, we are seeing more families move out of hotels and into a home.

Cllr Elizabeth Campbell: "The Chancellor has committed a budget of £28m which will pay for mental health services, improvements to the Lancaster West estate, and new community spaces for #Grenfell victims and survivors" #RBKCCouncilMtg

-- RBKC (@RBKC) December 6, 2017

"All of us sympathise with those who are still living in hotels with their children, especially at Christmas. I have always said we can only move at the pace at which victims and survivors feel comfortable - no-one should be rushed into making such an important decision about where they are going to live.

"However, I do accept, for some the pace is too slow. But, in the coming months, I expect many more households will move into their new homes. We remain on course, however, to meet our target that everyone from the Tower and Walk will be rehoused by June 2018."