Just after midnight that morning, the ceiling had collapsed in one woman’s bedroom: mercifully, she was visiting friends that night. The fact she has a condition that puts her at high risk of a heart attack doesn’t bear thinking about. For two weeks prior in the refuge, the sprinkler system had been leaking heavily: the women showed me the flooding they endured – ankle deep in some bedrooms, and wallpaper bulging with stale water.
Finally, the leak caused the ceiling to fall in. They rang the fire brigade and the housing association that owns the house and the charity that runs the shelter service. When the emergency services arrived, a firefighter told them that if anyone turned on the power, the entire building would go up in flames. Removing a plug from the wall, he swore as water poured from the socket. They were left with torches and barely managed to sleep: seven women, and six children between the ages of two and seven, crowded into the communal living room.
Their children are in play schemes in west London, where they’re building confidence after fleeing abuse and violence
Then matters worsened. The women were phoned individually by the housing association and told they’d be put in temporary accommodation – with no guarantee of when they would return – in Barking, 15 miles away:
God knows how an opponent of state housing would phrase it all.