Scores of Grenfell survivors are still homeless seven weeks after the devastating fire, while more than 1,600 properties stand empty in the borough.
Among those still waiting for permanent housing are an 89-year-old disabled woman, who has been separated from her carer son and hasn’t received a single housing offer, and a family of four who feel “forgotten”.
The Grenfell Response Team announced on Wednesday that, to date, 175 first offers have been made and 48 offers have been accepted and 13 households have been rehoused.
Campaign group Justice for Grenfell called the figures a “testament to the continuing misery and suffering people are enduring”.
Justice for Grenfell criticised Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council for not doing enough to rehouse survivors and shared a particularly harrowing story of an elderly disabled woman who was evacuated from her home in Tessterton Walk after living there since 1974.
The group said:
Bed ridden as the result of a stroke three years ago, she had been cared for by her live-in son, Curtis, supplemented with a care package that provided four visits a day at home. Since being evacuated she’s been separated from her son, placed in three different care homes and hospitalised twice, the second time due to dehydration. This confirmed the family’s concerns about the level of care and attention she was receiving, since being evacuated she’s become very depressed and has lost a considerable amount of weight.
Despite being deemed a priority based on the housing needs points system, Curtis and his mum haven’t received a single rehousing offer. Returning to their previous home in Tessterton Walk has been made impossible due to flooding caused by the temporary boiler. Their lives are in limbo, Curtis is deeply concerned about the serious impact this is having on his mother’s health
Another woman, whose family of four was also evacuated from Tessterton Walk, said she feels “forgotten” because she is still living in a hotel room with no communication from the council.
“It feels as if we’re forgotten, that our issues are not important; we’re made to feel that we should be grateful, but how can we move on with our lives?”
Justice for Grenfell campaigners said they “recognise the complexities of the situation”, but added: “Leaving severely traumatised and disabled people unsupported in inappropriate accommodation that only serves to increase the severity of their trauma is not acceptable.
“Everything is taking too long, there remains a distinct lack of empathy and care from many of those in authority, rebuilding trust is more or less impossible in such toxic conditions. The council must do better.”
A Kensington and Chelsea Council spokesperson said: “We are not able to comment on individual cases but we will look into this urgently.”
Campaigners said the council’s approach is “too inflexible” and is causing some evacuated residents “great distress”.
A spokesperson from the Grenfell Response Team, which is coordinating the official relief effort, said: “We are dealing with severely traumatised people and we do not want to rush anyone to make a decision.
“Some people are simply not ready to make big decisions about the future housing needs of their family. No-one is being forced to move into any property, and multiple offers are being made until households are completely happy to move. No one will be made intentionally homeless if they refuse an offer.
“It will take a long time for offers to be accepted, because of the highly emotional state of those we need to house and the complexity of their needs.
“It is a painstaking process, and one that requires understanding of families traumatised by the fire.
“It involves not only finding the right property for a family, but also making sure emotional and psychological support, schooling, education, and health support is provided.”
On Wednesday it emerged that a foreign billionaire, a US politician and a TV executive are among the owners of 1,652 vacant properties in Kensington and Chelsea borough.
The council blunder, which led to the information being sent to multiple recipients, including the Guardian, revealed that more than a third of the empty buildings have been vacant for more than two years, while a further 1,010 are unoccupied and “substantially unfurnished”.
The leaked data detailed the council tax information relating to vacant homes and their 1,197 owners.
The council has since said there was nothing they could do to force owners to live in the unoccupied homes.