A survivor of the Grenfell Tower blaze has asked “where is this money that’s been raised” as the community seeks answers over how funds and donations have been managed in the month since the tragedy.
Speaking at a meeting held at Acklam Village, Ladbroke Grove, on Friday evening, Yvonne Harris said residents of the high-rise block have not been consulted on how donations collected by the local authority and charities should be distributed.
“I’m asking, what has happened to all those funds? Money’s being raised in all directions and Simon Cowell, general people donating their money to us, to Grenfell Tower.
“Where is this money? Who gives them this authority on how to share this money? They haven’t consulted us.
“At the end of the day, we as the residents of Grenfell Tower should have a say how that money is distributed.
“There’s 129 flats in Grenfell Tower. At the end of the day, that money should be split between 129 flats. That’s fair.
“People have given generously to us at Grenfell Tower, we appreciate everything [from] the community [and] the wider community for what they’re doing, we value everything that they have done so far for us.
“But where is the money that’s being raised? Who has it and what are they doing with it?”
Her comments were made at a meeting organised by One Voice Community Collective, who have labelled themselves ‘The Real Community’ following a disappointing response from Kensington and Chelsea Council in the days and weeks since the blaze, which claimed the lives of at least 80 people.
Community leaders, volunteers and residents attended Friday’s meeting.
Concerns were raised about the whereabouts of donations given to charities such as the British Red Cross, which has been at the scene of the disaster since the flames engulfed the 24-storey block one month ago.
The British Red Cross has said that some of the items donated will be sold, due to the volume of items handed over, with the profits from the sales going to those affected by the blaze.
But Niles Hailstones, chairman of community group Westway 23, said that the donations “don’t belong” with the organisations that have collected them and called for them to be returned.
“Anyone who has come and taken donations out of the area we want to know where they are and we want them back in the area because they don’t belong to those that took them out of the area.
“And anyone who’s passing on those (donations) to other people, like the Red Cross, to sell. Who gave them permission? Who gave them permission to sell those donations?
“If they were sent from the people, to the people, then is that not theft and handling of stolen goods?
“They had no right to take those donations, because they weren’t sent to them. They were sent to the people of Grenfell who suffered in the fire. ”
His and Harris’ sentiments were echoed by others on the panel, one of whom said she had seen three warehouses full of donated items, yet was only allowed to bring 21 boxes back to the community.
The Red Cross said that they have been asked to turn some of the remaining donated clothes into cash for people affect by the fire after the council said they have “more than enough donations”.
“Due to the vast quantity of donations, the council has stored around 40,000 boxes of donations in a warehouse – that’s the equivalent of more than 100 lorry loads, or three football pitches,” the Red Cross said in a statement on June 28.
The charity said that the best new clothes will be made available to people affected by the fire and that the remaining items will be sold in Red Cross shops across the UK, with “every penny” raised going to those affected by the fire.
The Red Cross said they have deployed 1,010 volunteers to help with the relief effort, supporting 1,727 people.
Hailstones described the scene around the tower as a “war zone”.
He asked: “What’s the difference between what’s been going on here and what goes on in Haiti or Iraq or any of the other places where the community is decimated by the destruction and then left to fend for themselves?”
Hailstones blamed “greed” and the “programme of regeneration” for the Grenfell fire and called for arrests to be made.
Tonight’s press conference comes following a heated meeting between residents and the Grenfell Response Team on Wednesday, which descended into chaos.
Frustrated and angry Grenfell residents heckled officials with shouts of “murder” as they called for people to be arrested.
On Friday it emerged that suspicious campaigns set up in the wake of the fire had to be removed from crowdfunding sites.
GoFundMe said that its systems detected “a very small number of campaigns who looked suspicious” but that these were removed before any donations were made”.