Jun 21, 2017

    The Grenfell Tower Response Team Says Survivors Are Not Being Rehoused Hundreds Of Miles Away

    A spokesperson for the newly formed Grenfell Response Team told BuzzFeed News that claims of people being rehoused miles away from their homes are untrue.

    by ,
    David Mirzoeff / PA Wire/PA Images

    Grenfell Tower, west London, after a fire engulfed the 24-storey building on Wednesday morning.

    The newly formed Grenfell Response Team and Kensington and Chelsea council have denied reports that residents are being rehoused of miles away from their homes, and that they are being declared "intentionally homeless" if they refuse to move out of the borough.

    In a video that has been shared widely on social media, one survivor says he's heard of a man who was taken out of a hotel and sent to live in Preston:

    #grenfelltower survivor says they are being pressured to move as far north as Preston 😱 @smtm_LFC

    "They're doing disgusting things, they're cutting corners and we're all scared for what's going to happen to us," he says in the video.

    "They're basically putting pressure on people, so if you don't accept the offer you're making yourself intentionally homeless."

    In a tweeted thread, the Tottenham MP David Lammy said he had also heard the rumours.

    David Lammy via Twitter

    However, James Ryan, a spokesperson for the newly formed Grenfell Response Team, told BuzzFeed News that claims of people being rehoused miles away from their homes are untrue. "We have endeavoured to keep accommodation as local as possible, and we completely accept residents' wishes to remain close to the community," he said.

    Ryan said that so far 126 survivors of Grenfell Tower and residents who lived in the neighbouring building on Grenfell Walk have been placed in emergency hotel accommodation. He also said that survivors are currently being assessed for their housing needs, and they will be rehoused in Kensington and Chelsea or a neighbouring borough.

    "Work is taking place to assess the housing needs of all Grenfell Tower and Grenfell Walk families to identify suitable accommodation in [Kensington and Chelsea] and neighbouring boroughs," he said.

    When contacted by BuzzFeed News, the Royal Borough of Chelsea and Kensington, aka RBCK, flatly denied any suggestion that residents would be designated "intentionally homeless".

    Legally, if a person is declared "intentionally homeless" by the council – you can see the national guidelines here – then the local authority only has an obligation to house the individual in short-term accommodation, usually for 28 days.

    “Everyone is being offered temporary accommodation pending a permanent rehousing offer. Nobody has been offered accommodation outside of central London and we are aiming to place people as locally as possible,” an RBCK spokesperson said.

    However, lawyer ​Jayesh Kunwardia has told the Evening Standard he is concerned that residents he had spoken to who had refused accommodation outside the borough, instead opting to stay with family or friends nearby, could be penalised under the Housing Act.

    "RBKC could now refuse to accept a duty to house them under the Housing Act as they have made themselves ‘intentionally homeless’," he told the London newspaper.

    In the statement to BuzzFeed News, a Grenfell Response Team spokesperson said that to date 78 families have been assessed for their housing needs so far. They also confirmed that survivors would not be rehoused in tower blocks.

    The spokesperson revealed that to date £202,000 of government money had been distributed to 180 families. "These are being made up of a £500 cash payment and £5,000 delivered through DWP [the Department for Work and Pensions] into bank accounts or similar in a single payment," the spokesperson said.

    "The cash payment is available now – either at the Westway Centre, or through the Post Office in Portobello Road. The £5,000 payment is available and assigned key workers will assist households in accessing this."

    Fiona Rutherford is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

    Contact Fiona Rutherford at fiona.rutherford@buzzfeed.com.

    Rose Troup Buchanan is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

    Contact Rose Troup Buchanan at Rose.Buchanan@BuzzFeed.com.

    Got a confidential tip? Submit it here