Children in the UK are being housed in shipping containers because so many of them are homeless, according to the Children’s Commissioner.
Anne Longfield reportedly said it was a scandal that children were being housed in “office block conversions, in which whole families live in single rooms barely bigger than a parking space, and shipping containers which are blisteringly hot in summer and freezing in the winter months”.
In her report, entitled Bleak Houses, she said 124,000 children were considered officially homeless – but a further 90,000 were known to be “sofa-surfing”.
According to the BBC:
Office blocks and warehouses are also being used as temporary accommodation for families, with at least 13 office blocks in Harlow, Essex, converted into more than 1,000 individual flats.
In one such building, Templefields House, some units measure 18 sq m and are being used to house whole families, with parents and children sleeping in a single room also used as the kitchen, the report found.
The report said shipping containers were often located on “meanwhile sites” earmarked for future development.
As with office block conversions, there is often anti-social behaviour in the areas which means parents keep their children inside the small units instead of letting them out to play.
Ms Longfield also expressed concerns about B&Bs used as temporary accommodation, creating “intimidating and potentially unsafe environments” for children.
The bathrooms in B&Bs are often shared with other residents and vulnerable adults, including those with mental health or drug abuse problems.
The scandal here is the matters have worsened. I recall hearing of children being housed in B&Bs alongside people with mental health, drug abuse or violent crime histories more than a year ago.
Now they are being put up in cramped former offices and stifling shipping containers, of all places.
It simply isn’t acceptable. These places are unfit for human habitation.
Local councils, that are responsible for housing the homeless, say they are facing a huge, £159 million, funding shortfall from the Conservative-run central government.
The housing spokesman for the Local Government Association, Martin Tett, has urged the government to fund and give back councils their historic role of building homes with the right infrastructure.
Perhaps astonishingly, the Tory-run Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), which is responsible for the funding shortfall, said it had put £1.2bn into tackling all types of homelessness which had helped reduce the number of families in B&B accommodation.
By putting them in cramped ex-offices and boiling shipping containers instead?
It seems clear that the money could have been better-used.
Only yesterday evening (August 20), This Writer reported on a move by the National Audit Office to examine whether the government has been spending the £6.6 billion earmarked to cope with a “no deal” Brexit responsibly.
Perhaps that organisation should consider the DCLG as its next project – before someone in a shipping container dies from heat exhaustion.