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HomeNewsLast remaining shipping container residents in Ealing handed eviction notices

Last remaining shipping container residents in Ealing handed eviction notices

The last remaining residents of two shipping container estates with conditions so poor they are being decommissioned have been handed eviction notices which will see them ejected from their homes in a matter of weeks. While most are individuals at Meath Court and Marston Court, some are families with children who face being left homeless.

LDRS reporting on the two estates exposed conditions described as ‘hellish’ by residents, with cockroach infestations, dangerous drug dealers reportedly attacking families who complained and rusting walkways between homes that led to injuries.

Paula Aleksandros has two children and nowhere to go. Despite there being just two weeks until the eviction date, the mum says she has no idea where she is going or where her kids will sleep on the night of April 12.

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“Well, I have a tent,” she told the Local Democracy Reporting Service on a visit to her shipping container home. “I don’t sleep, I don’t know where I’m going to go. I have nowhere to go.”

Paula, like a number of other people in Marston Court, received a letter from Brentford County Court telling her that her family’s fate had been sealed and she must leave the property by 8am on April 12. She says she hasn’t been told anything by the council about what is going to happen to her or her children.

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At the height of the issues in Marston Court, Paula was attacked by drug dealers who could come into the estate freely through a broken security gate. She has complained to the council many times about her housing situation even conducting a sit-in of council offices last year.

However, Paula told the LDRS she fears her vocal protests may have harmed her chances of being rehomed. She has watched as other residents in similar situations have been given houses and alternative accommodation while Marston Court turns into a ghost town from which there is no escape except destitution.

In messages sent to her by Cllr Bassam Mahfouz, Ealing Council’s cabinet member for genuinely affordable housing, he accused her of wanting to ‘receive special treatment’ and responding to the desperate mother’s requests for updates on her situation with links to Spareroom.

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“I told him, I thought the council was there to help people like me, not drug dealers that have all been moved and I asked him ‘What about me?’ and he said ‘I think you expect special treatment’.”

“I don’t know where I’m going but I’m gonna start from square one.” Paula has been moved from the council’s housing department to social services which has to ensure a certain level of care for her children.

She has been told this likely means being moved into a hotel. “So maybe I might not be on the street physically but what’s the difference? Where are they going to put me? From one hotel to another hotel. I have been struggling here, you can’t even cook properly and have a normal meal [in a hotel it will be worse]. How long can you put up with this?

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“Especially when you have kids. If I was alone it would be different but with kids it is so stressful.” The letter asks those remaining in the shipping containers to remove their possessions before the 8am April 12 deadline, but Paula has nowhere to put them.

With the council failing to contact her with more details of where she will end up, Paula and her kids are facing the possibility of being forced out of the property by bailiffs while carrying their possessions. Paula joked that she was the ‘last woman standing’ but said if the scenario pans out as she fears, she will ‘cry the whole time’.

John, another resident who was moved into Marston Court as part of efforts to house homeless people during the pandemic and is now also facing eviction told the LDRS that he would rather be homeless than have to deal with Ealing Council again. “I will not have anything to do with the council under any circumstances. I have made that very clear. So maybe the next time you see me it might be in a park on a park bench sleeping rough because seriously I will not have anything to do with them.”

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He has previously said he believes legal action both criminal and civil should be taken against the council for the type of housing they have put people in – saying people should be compensated. “This is bad, I feel particularly sorry for the mothers that have had to go through this.”

An Ealing Council spokesperson said: “We are obliged by law to serve all the households at Meath and Marston courts with eviction notices as part of the decommissioning process. We have told those being moved into alternative accommodation not to be concerned by those letters and that they will be fully supported in their move to alternative accommodation.

“Three households will be evicted where we are either ceasing our housing duty towards them or as a result of rent arrears. One of those households includes children and we are working to ensure that our Children’s Act duties are observed. These households have all been updated and advised on the actions they need to take.”

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After publication, Ealing Council added: “The modular homes at Marston Court were an attempt by the council to seek innovative solutions to Ealing’s affordable housing crisis. Last year, we committed to closing the site, and we are currently moving the households living there into other accommodation.

“In Paula’s case, we offered her suitable alternative accommodation in Greenford more than a year ago, but she turned it down. Before she did, Paula was repeatedly informed that a refusal would mean that legally she is considered to have made herself intentionally homeless. We have worked with her to help her find a privately rented home, both locally and outside of London, and we have reviewed her case a number of times.

“We will continue to support her and her family once they are moved out of Marston Court next week. To ensure we meet our legal duties to her children, this will include rehousing them, which Paula knows. Throughout this process, we have kept her updated and informed about the action she needs to take. We will work to ensure her family’s transition to their new accommodation is as smooth as possible.”

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“In John’s case, he is being evicted because he is in very significant rent arrears to the council.”

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