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Spotlight falls on health impact of hostel life

07/02/2018

Residents shared harrowing stories of how their health had deteriorated while living in substandard temporary housing, at a special meeting on health and housing in January.

People at the event organised by NHS Community Voice described how living in hostels in Hackney had led them to become suicidal.

Mothers told the meeting that cramped and unsuitable temporary housing was damaging their children’s mental health.

One mother forced to share a bedroom with her with her teenaged son said: ‘He is isolated and depressed. He is ashamed to invite friends from school because they will see he has to share a bedroom with his mum.’

Another mother with a new baby told the meeting how she was housed on the second floor of a hostel after giving birth by Caesarean section and was barred having any visitors to come and help her with the new baby.

Panel member councillor Jonathan McShane, Hackney Council’s cabinet lead for health and social care, told the meeting about the shame he felt as a child when his family was temporarily housed in hotel for homeless people in Glasgow.

Former patient and panel member Andrew Mitchelson described how ‘appalling’ conditions at his hostel worsened his mental health, leading to a brief spell in hospital.

He called on the council to improve training to address the ‘often dismissive’ attitude of staff when homeless people seek help at the council service centre.

Former Hackney councillor Saleem Siddiqui said people needed to lobby the government as it was to blame for the scale of the housing crisis.

Hackney Council’s James Sanderson talked about his work helping vulnerable council tenants avoid eviction.

Healthwatch Hackney will use feedback from the meeting for a special report on health and housing in Hackney, due out next month.

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