Homeless families ‘forced out’ of Camden by welfare reforms: ‘It’s social cleansing of the poor’

Families are being evicted from Green Yard, in King's Cross, as Camden Council has called time on it

Families are being evicted from Green Yard, in King's Cross, as Camden Council has called time on its Homeless Families Initiative with Origin Housing Association. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Polly Hancock

A Ham&High investigation has found almost 40 homeless families are being forced out of Camden as a scheme to support them is “unaffordable” in the wake of welfare reforms. Homeless charity Shelter says the shocking trend is echoed across the capital.

Almost 40 homeless families face being forced out of Camden as sweeping changes to the benefits system leads to the closure of a support scheme.

Camden Council has called time on its Homeless Families Initiative which has offered temporary accommodation to destitute families since 1989, an investigation by the Ham&High has found.

The council says reductions in housing benefit and other welfare changes “have made the scheme unaffordable” and 39 households have been issued with eviction notices.

But Camden has admitted that a lack of “affordable family-size accommodation” may result in the families being moved out of the borough – leading to accusations of social cleansing.

Some of the families affected have lived in their homes for up to a decade and say they have been “left in limbo” and unsure where they will end up.

One of those, father-of-four Salem Saad, is desperate for his children to remain at primary school in Hampstead – an impossibility if they are forced out of Camden.

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The 40-year-old said: “Education is one of the most important things for kids. They are happy where they are and I don’t want to take them anywhere else.

“To move us from one place to another, and then to have to go through this again in a couple of years, that’s no good.”

The family had been homeless since 2010 and living in hostels or temporarily with friends and family before being offered a three-bedroom house in Green Yard, King’s Cross, in 2012 through the Homeless Families Initiative, which is run in conjunction with Origin Housing Association.

Mr Saad says his family has been placed under “considerable stress and anxiety” and he will be unable to continue his job as an administration worker in Hampstead if they are forced to leave the borough.

“The prospect of being re-housed again is a concern for my job,” he said.

“I should be the example to follow as a working force in the family and not on full benefits, a workless family.”

He has called for Camden to reverse its decision to terminate the Homeless Families Initiative, saying: “Clearly it is a social cleansing attitude toward the poor and vulnerable”.

Camden is working to re-house families in three phases before March 31, 2017.

A council spokeswoman said: “Reductions in the availability of housing benefit and other welfare changes have made this scheme unaffordable for the council to support.

“We will ensure that any offers made to families are suitable, and we will offer them whatever support they may need when relocating.

“Unfortunately, as for any family seeking temporary accommodation, we are unlikely to be able to identify affordable family-sized accommodation in Camden. We will do as much as possible to take the needs and circumstances of households into consideration and make reasonable offers of alternative accommodation.”

Tenants who are unwilling to leave their homes could be served with legal notices.