Sunday, 10 November 2013

Plea for community to rally to aid of elderly couple homeless after house fire

Guest blog from Cllr Alison Hopkins

Some may have seen reported in the local paper that a house in Review Road in my Dollis Hill ward was recently very badly damaged by fire. The occupants are an elderly couple and their son. The house is uninhabitable, so they're all homeless. And, they were uninsured, for reasons I won’t go into, so there's no help from that quarter. The son is finding himself accommodation and is employed part time, so will at least not be on the streets.
The parents, however, have far more serious problems. Their daughter lives in Ireland with her own family, and came straight to London as soon as she heard what had happened. She’s spent the past ten days trying to get help, initially from Brent Council, and then contacted both Sarah Teather and me.  She called me Friday, distraught, as she’s had really minimal help from Brent. Initially, they refused any help at all, as the parents “had an asset”, in the shape of a burnt out house! She persuaded them to accommodate both parents and son in a hostel till the 10th November, then spent all day Friday trying to persuade Brent Housing to extend this. Asking for ID and proof of the fire when everything has been lost was not the best reply she could have got.  Brent eventually agreed to extend the hostel until the 16th November, but this obviously isn't any kind of solution: the house will have to be sold, as is, as there’s no money to refurbish it. It’s uninhabitable, and the couple have nowhere to go.  A hostel is also not the best place for an elderly couple in poor health.
I’ve rounded up some help from our community: Ashford Place will be meeting the daughter tomorrow, I’ve asked if the local parish can help, contacted a local business to see if anything can be done, and Daniels have offered to give advice on the house sale issue. The father is ex RAF, so I’ve also suggested the RAF Benevolent Association and the British Legion as possible help, plus the Red Cross. There’s a lot of debris to clear, and I may have someone helping with that.
I did manage to get hold of Brent’s Regeneration Director late Friday night: his remit includes housing, and he’s promised to look into this urgently.  I will, as you may imagine, not let up on that.
In the meantime, though, HELP! The house needs a tarpaulin to stop more rain damage. It needs clearing and rubbish removed – as I say, I may have someone who can help on removal, but anything on that would be hugely appreciated. . The couple need somewhere to live for the time being, which I realise is a big ask, but can anyone help with that? Are there builders, or handymen willing to do any kind of patch up? Or more! I know we’ve got a very strong community here, and I think that we can work to help this couple.  In the longer term, they’ll need furniture and household goods, too.
Please contact me on if you can help and/or have sources, or other ideas for resources we can call on.

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