Globe, Struggles, United Kingdom, Workers

Where have all the houses gone?

One family’s hardship has become the rallying cry for all those suffering under bureaucratic housing hang-ups.

The economic situation in the UK has made life hard for thousands of disadvantaged families, and the coalition government’s continuing a program of spending cuts is not helping matters.

Nearly 70 charitable organizations have raised concerns over the latest regiment of cuts, citing huge growth in food banks and the creation of the Save the Children program to help low-paid families paralyzed by the crisis.

Perhaps the most striking negative effects of the cuts, however, can be found in the failures of council housing programs.

Studies from the past three years show that homelessness has risen by 26 percent in the UK and that nearly 50,000 families are classified as living in temporary accommodations.

The majority of these people have houses or flats leased by councils, housing associations or private landlords who sometimes take advantage of the situation by forcing exorbitant prices on their needy tenants.

The far more unfortunate minority has been relegated to living in bed and breakfast establishments. This is the lowest tier of the social housing pyramid; the only alternative being life on the street.

Those forced to room in B&Bs often find cramped, damp rooms with unsanitary facilities. It is also quite possible that families will be shut out of their B&B during working hours, leaving them and their children to find another place to spend the day. Evening meals are also frequently excluded and fast food ends up being the only recourse for hungry families. Many forced into these situations are later found to be suffering from depression or other mental trauma.

There are supposedly governmental guidelines in this area that prevent families in temporary housing programs from being kept in B&Bs for over six weeks, but this regulation is frequently stretched or outright ignored.

Furthermore, members of the Department for Work and Pensions say the new benefits cap will almost definitely include temporary accommodations, which could throw even more people into housing limbo.

In the face of this growing problem one family and their supporters are calling for an end to the cuts and unfair council housing practices that leave so many people with nowhere to go.

Isabel and Anthony Counihan, as well as their five children, have been living in temporary housing in Ealing since April 2011 after being placed there by the Brent Council. They have since been left to wait as the council debates over a decision on their situation.

MP Glenda Jackson was quoted as telling the family they simply “can’t afford to live in London.” But the Counihans and their fellow citizens are rejecting this verdict and are calling for justice for all families displaced and abandoned in housing limbo by the failures of council housing practices.

The Counihan Family Campaign will be holding a march October 6 to support those suffering in temporary housing. The rally will begin at Kilburn Square, NW6 6PT, at 2:30 pm and will continue on to the South Kilburn Estate.

There will be speakers before and after the march. All supporting organizations and their representatives will have speaking rights.

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