Mum-of-two's long-term home 'nightmare' amid housing crisis

Molly Millrain

Molly Millrain and her two-year-old Oscar, outside their Harold Hill flat - Credit: Molly Millrain

A 22-year-old mother-of-two has spoken out after being told she may have to wait two years to secure a permanent council home in Havering.

Molly Millrain from Harold Hill has been moved through a string of hostels and flats over the last year, and says she has been advised it will be two years before she is given a permanent residence.

This comes amid a housing crisis gripping the UK, including in Havering, where just 430 council flats were able to be let last year and 2,000 people await homes on the housing register.

Havering Council says with so many people in need, it "cannot give preferential treatment to one family over all the others" but is "confident" Molly's "current accommodation is safe and secure" in the meantime.

The mum, who has a 12-week-old baby and a two-year-old, has been assessed as a moderate risk with regard to her mental health and is also on the disability register.

Molly first became homeless in April 2020, in part due to the pandemic, and was put in Abercrombie House the following month.  

She alleges that she saw drug use take place in the hostel, and in response, a spokesperson from Havering Council said it "enforces a strict anti-drug policy", with "regular, unscheduled inspections with the assistance of the police".

Molly stayed in Abercrombie House for three months

Molly stayed in Abercrombie House for three months - Credit: Steve Poston

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Molly explained: "I was sofa surfing, then landed up with nowhere to go and with lockdown everything became even harder. My housing officer told me I should look for private renting but no one would take housing benefit. He then suggested I sleep on a park bench. My son was 11 months old."

She said she was stationed in a room the size of a "cot" and it was " just awful": "If you voluntarily had your child in an environment like that, they would be taken away from you by social services."

After three months, the council gave her temporary accommodation in Hilldene Avenue, but Molly says the flat had mould and was up six flights of stairs.

This was a concern because Molly was 23 weeks pregnant and at risk of premature birth; she said a doctor's note advising her to stay on the ground floor. 

Additionally, people with suicidal thoughts are not advised to live in high rise flats.

The mould in the Hilldene Avenue flat

The mould in the Hilldene Avenue flat - Credit: Molly Millrain

Molly said she was also "concerned for the children's breathing": "[The mould] was everywhere. The surveyor said it was just condensation but it was everywhere. We reported it over and over as soon as home treatments didn’t work."

The Hilldene flat was up six flights of stairs

The Hilldene flat was up six flights of stairs - Credit: Molly Millrain

At the end of April, she was moved into another temporary flat in Harold Hill. However, she said she spent two weeks without any heating or hot water in this property.

After to and froing with council engineers, they discovered it wasn't plugged in.

Molly's current flat, a PSL house - which is managed by the council but privately-owned - is a temporary solution, with the landlord able to give two months notice to evict the family.

Despite the exacerbating factors, Molly is number 20 on the council house bidding programme and will have to wait up to two years to be given her own long-term flat.

"I feel so let down by the whole system," she said. "I have lived here my whole life and I just feel exhausted and I just want to settle so badly.

"I was so ready to be discharged from every service [in April 2020] and to start moving on with my life and get a career. I just want a happy, healthy, safe home and now I just feel like I've gone backwards."

She added: "I want a home that feels like mine."

Her oldest son Oscar, who was one while they were in the Abercrombie Hoste

Her oldest son Oscar, who was one while they were in the Abercrombie House - Credit: Molly Millrain

A spokesperson for Havering Council said: “The council has been working with Ms Millrain to find a suitable home for her and her children, and are confident that, whilst not a long-term solution, her current accommodation is safe and secure.

“Demand for family-sized affordable housing in Havering is very high. Given that demand, the council cannot give preferential treatment to one family over all the others who are also in need, but we will always ensure that all the families on the housing register are living in safe and suitable conditions while they bid for long-term council properties."

They said Havering Council is currently developing "several large scale regeneration projects" to double the number of affordable homes available.