Kensington & ChelseaNews

Woman living in hostel for 10 years faces homelessness after allergic reaction from house viewing

A woman who has been living in a hostel for 10 years faces homelessness after she turned down her first house viewing that gave her an allergic reaction.

Simone Stewart, 44, from Dalgarno Gardens, North Kensington, has lived in a hostel supplied by Octavia –  a social housing and care provider – since January 2013, after she was referred by Kensington and Chelsea council.

In December 2022, Ms Stewart applied for a homelessness application with the council after she received a notice of seeking possession from Octavia – meaning she would have to move out of the property.

Despite having medical proof of a number of health issues including fibroids, asthma and nerve damage in her back, the council found Ms Steward was not “priority need”, in March 2023. 

She said: “They are not sensitive to the fact that I’ve gone through so much. 

“Housing officers are aggressive in the way they communicate with me and they ask me to show my passport like they don’t believe me.

“I have rights, I’m a British citizen and the council has the ability to use its powers to help me.

“I shouldn’t have to be in a wheelchair to be seen as vulnerable.”

The hostel Ms Stewart has lived in for ten years has damp in the walls (Picture: Simone Stewart)

The local authority accepted that she is threatened with homelessness and in need of assistance, but said she was not “more vulnerable than an ordinary person”.

This follows years of issues Ms Stewart has faced with her housing situation, including an alleged assault by a man in the hostel who she claims pulled a BB gun on her in 2017.

She said: “He knocked on my door and then just rammed in shouting. I thought it was a real gun. I was so scared – I ran out of the house and called the police.

“I couldn’t eat or sleep for days after it happened. I still have panic attacks about it.”

After the incident an officer advised Octavia to move her from the property.

Then in 2019, Octavia told Ms Stewart that her tenancy from 2013 was only for two years – which had been exceeded and she now needed to find somewhere else to live.

They said they would offer her two property viewings before she would have to leave.

In September 2019, Ms Stewart attended a house viewing but the dust in the flat caused her to have an allergic reaction. 

She said: “When I got there the property was being painted. There was something toxic and I had a huge allergic reaction. 

“I was on the bus home and my face swelled up and I had to go to the doctors. But when I told Octavia all they said was ‘that’s a shame it was a good opportunity for you’.”

Ms Stewart’s face swelled up after an allergic reaction to a house viewing in 2019 (Picture: Simone Stewart)

Ms Stewart has also lived with mould, broken cupboards and cracks in the walls for the past 10 years and says the conditions are having a negative impact on her mental health. Octavia have still not finalised a date for her to leave the property.

A Kensington and Chelsea council spokesperson said: “We have more than 3,000 households on the housing register, over 1,000 new homelessness applications in the last year, and on average we only have circa 400 new social housing lettings. 

“This means that some households unfortunately have to wait a long time for social housing.”

Octavia has been approached for comment.

Pictured top: Mould in the cupboards in the hostel Ms Stewart is living in, Ms Stewart’s allergic reaction after the house viewing (Picture: Simone Stewart)

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