By Melissa Kasule
A mother-of-six has begged to be moved out of her two-bedroom property in fear or her family’s health and safety.
Afton Gavin, of Roundell House in Bowen Drive, Dulwich has complained about exposed wires, mould, incomplete repairs, delays for fixtures and overcrowding in her home.
And she has now refused to pay her rent because she said her family’s overcrowding has got so bad.
A mother to children aged from two to 18, Ms Gavin said their living conditions are a danger to her children and has affected their mental health – and she has herself suffered panic attacks.
Ms Gavin also struggled to isolate her son, who has recently contracted coronavirus, with nothing but a sheet to separate him from her five other children in their overcrowded flat.
A letter from Dulwich and West Norwood MP Helen Hayes to Southwark council sparked a visit from the council.
Ms Gavin said: “Just now they are trying to fix everything to leave me in here but I can’t be in here – it’s too small. I’ve got two beds in my living room, it’s ridiculous.
“It has been very hard. My daughter cut herself on the bath on her bum because it’s rusting, so I thought “right, if you not going to come out and fix it, I’m not paying my rent” because I would be better living on the streets with them.
“I’ve got electrics hanging out my wall. The other month I was sitting on the toilet at 2am and my ceiling fell down.
“Luckily it was me and not my children. My daughter was having a bath the other week and the tiling fell off – luckily I was in there with her. I’ve got stickers on the electrics saying “danger”.
“My kids do their homework sitting on the toilet. We’ve got no space.
“There are five of us in one room. My daughter goes into the cupboard and cries. She can’t do her homework, she worries about everything. She shouldn’t be worrying about anything – she’s a little girl.
“I’m very good at paying my rent but I’m not going to pay for somewhere my children are hurting themselves 24/7. We live like tramps. It’s disgusting. Don’t get me wrong – I clean it, but there is no point decorating because I don’t want to be here.”
A spokeswoman for Southwark council said: “Ms Gavin applied for rehousing because of overcrowding on December 2, 2019. This was after she reported an increase in the number of her household from originally two to seven members.
“Following her application assessment, she was awarded band 3 (4-bed need). However, these type of properties are in short supply and she was accordingly advised by Housing Solutions on July 16 this year through her Member of Parliament.
“Unfortunately, her band three was demoted to band four because she had rent arrears as per council policy. She was advised by colleagues in Housing Solutions to reduce her arrears to less than four weeks.
“However, she has not yet managed to do so and hence remains in band four. However, we are liaising with Housing Solutions to explore whether her band can be re-assessed or upgraded.
“We were advised that this can only be considered after we have carried out room measurements and reported back to Housing Solutions.
“Unfortunately, due to Covid 19 restrictions, we have up until recently been unable to visit properties to measure the rooms of her property. However, since then, we have been advised that we can virtually carry out room measurements and so we intend to do this as soon as possible.
“With regards to repairs/delays, I understand that Ms Gavin informed her Resident Services Officer (RSO) that she is not willing to allow any workmen into her property because she wants a move.
“She will not let any workmen into her property until she is moved permanently.
“We have proposed the option of moving the family into temporary accommodation to get her property repaired but she declined this option.
“The Repairs team is currently liaising with the Disrepair team on the way forward on this case.”
Pictured top: Loose wires
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