Grenfell disaster survivors let down by British authorities


London Grenfell Tower burning, 14 June 2017

By Lamiat Sabin in Britain:

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Grenfell survivors still left in limbo one year on from the fire

SCORES of survivors of the Grenfell Tower inferno are still waiting for housing exactly one year since the disaster that killed 72 people in west London.

The tower, 11 surrounding blocks and Downing Street were scheduled to be lit up in green in the early hours of this morning to mark the anniversary of the time the fire broke out.

They will be illuminated from 8pm until midnight for four following evenings.

But 68 families will spend the anniversary in emergency accommodation, 42 of them in hotels.

Fifty-two households have moved into temporary accommodation and 83 families are in permanent homes, Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) council said.

More than 200 households from the tower and Grenfell Walk, the low-rise blocks at the tower’s base, were forced out of their homes by the fire.

And 74 Grenfell Walk households cannot return to the Lancaster West Estate due to “deep trauma”, according to the
Radical Housing Network. They remain in precarious private-sector temporary accommodation.

The capped rents for their flats on the estate and their private-sector accommodation will both expire on June 30, leaving them having to fork out extortionate full rates or fall into rent arrears.

RBKC is effectively making them choose between returning to the estate or facing indefinite homelessness in temporary private housing while losing their life-long rights as council tenants.

Zainab, a resident whose father-in-law died in the tower block fire, said: “Every day if we are here [on the estate] my children cry and cry.

“I feel like the fire happened just yesterday and the tower is right there. How can we live while we are still here?”

Her family of six is living in a flat where the landlord’s belongings sit in a locked room. RBKC has told them that they will have to leave when the landlord returns “soon.”

The council insists that there is “no policy” of making residents choose between their council flat or temporary home.

But Radical Housing Network spokeswoman Becka Hudson told the Morning Star that, regardless of whether it is explicit policy or not, scrapping the rent cap is forcing people to choose.

“Nothing scandalous is written on paper by the council”, she added.

She also said that the North Kensington Law Centre is dealing with many of these residents’ cases.

The law centre released a report on Monday that says that “there is clearly an issue with suitability” with the 307 properties RBKC bought in the aftermath of the fire.

“The council appears determined not to procure properties which would meet [survivors’] needs”, the report states.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn insisted at Prime Minister’s Questions today that the government act to secure permanent homes for survivors.

Mr Corbyn paid “tribute to the survivors and members of the local community who have shown such courage and dignity in the face of what was a catastrophe.

“Today, it is also important to thank our brave emergency services who went into a burning building to save lives.

“This evening I will be standing in solidarity with the survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire and the wider community in North Kensington by joining the silent walk to mark the one-year anniversary.”

A moment of silence will be observed at midday by survivors and the bereaved close to the tower’s base, with silence also observed across the country.

In the afternoon, a congregation will be held at the nearby Wall of Truth before a silent march from 7pm, which will end in a Ramadan fast-breaking iftar meal in Kensington Memorial Park.

Yvette Williams, from campaign group Justice 4 Grenfell, said: “We want the nation to keep Grenfell in their consciousness. The anniversary is about love and support. The fight can start again on Friday and Saturday.”

The public inquiry into the blaze has been suspended for a week to allow memorials and vigils to take place.

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