Homeless families despair at ‘temporary’ shipping containers ‘promoted as flats’

Families are spending months in “cramped and unsafe” conditions by living inside converted shipping containers used as temporary accommodation for the homeless.

Ealing Council constructed a number of the “heavily modified” containers in west London to house vulnerable families who would otherwise be in B&Bs or other interim housing.

But those living in the steel containers – comprised of a small kitchenette, bedroom and shower room – have complained of overheating, hazards for young children and damp and mould.

Mother-of-two Corelle Tertullien was previously housed in a hostel in Southall, west London, and moved into a container in Hanwell shortly before she was due to give birth in December.

“When I got the phone call, he said, ‘oh, we have a flat for you’,” she told the PA news agency.

“And then when I came here, I realised obviously this is not a flat. This is a shipping container.

“When they tell you, they make it out like it’s a flat or a house, but no, it’s a shipping container.”

A jigsaw of steel boxes with wood cladding form the 34 units in Marston Court, with one piled on top of the other to resemble a housing block or estate.

The 26-year-old, whose sons are aged two and nine months, was forced to move out of her family home due to overcrowding but has to keep her belongings elsewhere due to an absence of storage space.

She said: “We’re all sleeping in one bed at the moment because I can’t fit the cot in here, there’s no space.

“There’s no bathtub. Originally I was washing him (the nine-month-old) in the kitchen sink but now I wash him on the floor, getting a cup and washing him that way, because he’s too big to fit in the sink now.”

The lack of circulation in the metal storage containers means they are prone to overheating, according to Ms Tertullien, which leads to condensation dripping from the ceiling.

“The fan is never off, it is constantly hot in here. The only way is to have your door open but I don’t want to have my door open because I don’t want people to look inside,” she said.

“Most of the time they’re in their nappies because it’s just too hot.”

After almost nine months living in the container, the shop assistant is unsure when she’ll be moving into permanent accommodation.

She said another resident had been living in a container for three years.

“But to me, if it’s temporary accommodation, you shouldn’t be here for three years,” she added.

Another resident, who preferred not to be named, said she cried after arriving at the containers having previously lived in the Calais jungle.

“The council put me in here,” she told PA.

“It’s better than Calais but no-one wishes to live in a container, especially when you have kids.

“When I got here and saw all of this, the container, I was crying.”

A mother-of-one, the 29-year-old said the conditions inside the container were worse than in Eritrea and Sudan when she was living in a “normal house”.

She said: “Sometimes in here it’s damp with mould. Even making water for the tea, you have to open the window because of the steam.

“It’s green inside the windows and even inside the bed.”

An Ealing Council spokesman said: “Ealing Council was one of the first local authorities in the country to use innovative modular homes as temporary accommodation.

“Made from heavily modified shipping containers, the homes offer a stable, comfortable environment for vulnerable homeless families who have nowhere else to go.

“While we would rather offer people the opportunity to live in genuinely affordable permanent homes, the housing crisis means we have no choice but to use temporary accommodation to house the sheer volume of homeless households that present to us.”

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Stefan Rousseau / PA Wire.