‘My children know what crack smells like’: Single mum left in run-down block with drug users

A single mum who is trying to get her life back together after having a breakdown says her housing association has failed to fix repairs and stop people taking drugs in her block since 2018.

Nicole Hughes, 30, from Deptford Broadway, New Cross, said Southern Housing – who run the block – has left her door hanging from its hinges and ignored her complaints about people constantly taking drugs in the communal spaces.

Ms Hughes lives with her two children, Renesmae, six, and Jaycee, nine, and says they are not safe in their own home.

Ms Hughes said people sleep rough in the corridors outside her flat (Picture: Nicole Hughes)

She said: “You can kick our door in, it is only held together by magnets.

“It gets kicked in by people in the block three times a night, every night.

“My kids are scared when they hear the banging – they get really worried.”

Ms Hughes says drugs and paraphanalia are left scattered around the communal areas (Nicole Hughes)

Ms Hughes said she had to “fight” to get Optivo – who merged with Southern Housing in 2022 – to put fire roof doors on her flat when she moved in in 2018.

Since her door has been replaced it constantly breaks, every time it is repaired it breaks within two weeks. 

The disrepair of the front door is especially concerning for Ms Hughes, who says strangers are constantly taking drugs and regularly defecate and wee in the block which residents have to report to be cleaned.

She said: “It’s like a crack house – they are in this block doing this and no one cares.

“They stink out the block and leave their paraphernalia all over the floor and the stairs. My kids know what crack smells like.

“They ask me ‘what’s that smell?’ when we are walking home through the block – they don’t know what it is but they recognise it now.

Ms Hughes said the property has been in disrepair since she moved in in 2018 (Picture: South London Press/ Takenya K. Holness)

“Southern Housing keeps saying they’re going to report it but nothing happens.”

It is not just the issues outside the flat. The cupboards in Ms Hughes’ kitchen are broken, mice have been getting into the rooms since she moved in and the walls sag, filled with water from leaks.

Ms Hughes and her children have been living in these conditions for five years and she said the situation has had a negative effect on her mental health which resulted in a breakdown earlier this year.

Video showing the walls of Ms Hughes block sagging from leaks that have filled pockets in the wallpaper (Picture: Nicole Hughes)

She said: “It’s so stressful – everyone just says it’s not their job, it drives me insane.

“I’m constantly agitated and defensive. I hate the fact they don’t care about my children.

“When my mental health gets worse I get panic attacks and I can’t breathe.

Ms Hughes said the constant disrepair in the block is putting a strain on her mental health (Picture: Nicole Hughes)

“I’ve sent them my medical records and requested a transfer on medical grounds, but nothing.”

Now Ms Hughes is trying to turn her life around. She is currently studying at university but says the constant issues in her block are setting her back.

She said: “I’m trying to create a stable environment after the breakdown – but I can’t live like this.

“I can’t even revise for my exams because I can’t concentrate and there’s constant noise.

“There’s always problems with our electrics so my flat is left without power all the time.”

A spokesman from Southern Housing said: “We’re sorry to hear about the issues Ms Hughes has been experiencing within her building.

“We’ve fixed the communal door three times since June after it was targeted by vandals and on 16 November we fitted triple maglocks to prevent easy access and make it even more secure.

“Our pest control contractor visited Ms Hughes’s home in August and last month, sealing entry points the mice could use to enter her home. Although this is an ongoing process, they attended last week and found no evidence of any recent activity.

“However, Ms Hughes refused access to her home for our operatives to complete works during a visit last month.

“We’d urge Ms Hughes to let us know if there [are] any issues with the appointments we’re making and we’ll do everything we can to accommodate her needs.”

Pictured top: From Left, Nicole Hughes and her children Renesmae and Jaycee (Picture:Nicole Hughes)

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