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  1. ITV Report

Homeless families housed on 'death trap' industrial estate and forced to share beds in cramped conditions

Families are housed in cramped conditions at Connect House.

Homeless families are being forced to share beds in a converted warehouse on a toxic industrial estate, ITV London can reveal.

Some 200 children and their families have been housed on the estate by four London councils - sometimes months at a time - as authorities try to re-home them.

Families face cramped conditions at Connect House in Mitcham, occasionally without basic amenities, while lorries, vans and machinery use the grounds

One resident told ITV London she cried every day at the thought of living at the estate, which costs the taxpayer £1.5 million a year to run.

Connect House has now been slammed by MP Siobhain McDonagh as a "multi-million pound death trip", as she raised the issue of substandard accommodation in the House of Commons.

Connect House is in the middle of an industrial estate.

One woman, a mother-of-two, told ITV London there was not enough space for her young children to move about.

"When I got off the bus and I started walking through to the supposed new property I almost fainted half-way," she said.

"I couldn't trace the place, I couldn't believe any living individual exists any way around there."

She continued: "As you walk through, without a bus stop, tram station, train station, it's a long 15 minutes walk through an isolated alleyway.

"It's so scary. My daughter would described this and said 'mummy, we're living in the woods now.'"

Walls in the flats were described as paper-thin.

Another mother, who has an eight-week old baby, said her son developed a cough which doctors thought had been caused by fumes on the estate.

The walls are so thin that she can't hear her neighbours from all sides, meaning she can't sleep.

"I was like 'oh my god, that's an industrial estate'. I'm going to be there with my child," she said.

"It's horrible. I wake up every day and I hope it is the day I get out of here.

"And then sometimes I just cry myself to sleep because I'm still here."

When she complained to Sutton Council she was told the only other option would be to move her out of the area.

Children have become ill because of vehicle fumes.

Other families told ITV London they were forced to share beds for lack of space.

In some cases, basic cooking equipment was not even installed in the flats.

None of the accommodation is fitted with a lift, meaning mothers are forced to leave prams at the bottom of stairs.

On one occasion, because of its location, an ambulance could not find a resident requiring help at Connect House.

The four councils are charged £30-40 per room per night, resulting in an estimated cost of £1.25 - £1.5 million for the tax payer every year.

This woman and her baby have lived in her flat for months.

Around 20 Connect House residents accompanied Ms McDonagh to Parliament on Tuesday where MPs debated sub-standard temporary accommodation.

It came as a video was launched showing the conditions families were forced to live in.

Ms McDonagh called on the government to ensure all temporary accommodation reached a minimum standard.

She said: "Connect House is a multi-million pound death trap in the heart of an industrial estate.

"Lorries, vans and machinery are simply unsuitable and dangerous neighbours for the 84 families and their hundreds of children on the working estate.

"Local authorities are housing families here without having even seen the property and the danger that they are placing their residents in.

"This is, quite simply, an accident waiting to happen."

A spokesperson for Easy Management told ITV London Connect House had been made into living accommodation with full planning permission and in accordance with all regulations.

The firm said it had also tried arranging meetings with residents after they raised complaints.

"It is important to note that we have had a program of safety improvements, particularly regarding fire safety over the last three months and have spent over £100,000 making these improvements," the spokesperson said.

"Most of what was done was to do with communal compartmentation and works were carried out behind the scene.

"Additional works that were carried were, upgrading the doors and entrance to the building, additional CCTV cameras.

"We remain fully committed to the safety and security of the tenants living there and all suggestions and recommendations are always seriously considered and often acted upon."