Sandra Rumkiene and her daughter, Jessica, in the bedroom of their home, on November 20 in Mitcham, southwest of London
In an overcrowded apartment in an industrial area of south London, Sandra Rumkiene tells of her struggle to raise her son like so many other modest families forced to live in temporary housing.
The trucks pass in front of the Rumkiene building at all times and the 84 apartments, old offices converted and rented by the State to a private owner, are near a waste plant whose stench floats in the air.
„It’s as if God had forgotten this place,“ he said of the Mitcham neighborhood building. „At least we have a roof, but we are worried about the baby, because it really grows slowly,“ the 32-year-old woman said tearfully, explaining that the anguish and nerves that cause her current situation do not let her eat.
The Rimkiene is one of 78,180 families in England on the verge of ending up on the street and in need of temporary accommodation provided by the authorities, according to official figures in a June parliamentary report.
– ‚Desperate for a house‘-
The situation has worsened since the Conservative government came to power in the United Kingdom in 2010: the number of families in temporary accommodation has increased by 60% since 2011.
Temporary housing is a patch for families and other vulnerable people before being placed in permanent social housing, but the lack of adequate homes has left some people in dire conditions.
Finance Minister Philip Hammond in his budget announcement this week promised to solve „the broken real estate market“ by allocating funds, loans and guarantees for a total of 44,000 million pounds (49,400 million euros, 58,500 dollars) for five years.
Sandra Rumkiene poses at the door of her apartment on November 20 in Mitcham, southwest of London
Deputy Siobhain McDonagh, representative of Mitcham and Morden, attributed the crisis to high housing costs combined with insufficient housing construction.
„I’ve seen good times and I’ve seen bad times, but I’ve never seen a situation as tough as at the moment,“ McDonagh, of the Labor Party, the first of the opposition, told AFP.
McDonagh said local councils are „desperate“ and that the current system is having an incalculable impact on people’s mental health.
Local authorities in England spent 845 million pounds on temporary accommodation in 2015-16, 39% more in real terms than in 2010-2011, according to a September report from the National Audit Office.
– Four in a bed –
In the same building where Sandra Rumkiene lives, Victoria Abiodun, 41, explained that she has been moved to four different places in two years and that she has been living in her current home for 14 months. She shares a bed with her two girls, while her newborn sleeps on a baby mat, and her husband and 10-year-old son on bunk beds.
„Life is very difficult for us,“ he told AFP, with his three-week-old baby in his chest. Like other mothers, Abiodun is concerned about the safety of her children, because there is nowhere to play except the hallways or the parking lot.
„You do not want to lose sight of your children for a second,“ he said. The family has tried to find a private rental apartment, but Abiodun said her husband does not earn the 40,000-pound annual salary that property agents require for a contract.
Peter Mackie, a professor at the University of Cardiff, said that it is necessary to adopt far-reaching measures to make the private rental sector safer, as well as to build truly affordable housing.
While temporary housing offers a safety net so that families do not end up on the streets, Mackie believes that a complete overhaul of the system needed to ensure quality housing is needed.
„The problem is that we do not have legislation that obliges local authorities to accommodate people in temporary accommodation of good quality,“ he told AFP.
Rumkiene has been living in Mitcham since January and the city council has told him that he can not offer anything better. „Our Christmas last year was really terrible, because we were staying in an emergency shelter, and this year we will not be able to do anything special either.“