A five-year-old Lewisham child saw a man armed with a gun in the same building their family was placed in temporary accommodation, according to a new select committee report.  

‘How living in temporary accommodation affects children and young people’ includes reports from parents that they found “used condoms, syringes and other drug paraphernalia in communal spaces, rough sleepers in the hallway, and filthy foul-smelling common parts” where they were temporarily housed. 

The report, following a review from the children and young people select committee, details the significant mental and physical impact on children living in temporary accommodation, including social isolation, bedwetting, and a 25 per cent risk increase of disability or severe ill-health.  

At the end of June 2019, there were 2,195 households in temporary accommodation in Lewisham, including 4,464 children. These figures continue to increase exponentially.  

Nationally there were 86,130 households without a permanent home, including 127,370 children. 

According to the report, children who have been made homeless can experience difficulty sleeping and are up to 10 times more likely to get meningitis.  

“Children living in overcrowded housing are up to 10 times more likely to contract meningitis, and as many as one in three people who grow up in overcrowded housing have respiratory problems in adulthood.  

“Children living in damp, mouldy homes are between one and a half and three times more prone to coughing and wheezing – symptoms of asthma and other respiratory conditions – than children living in dry homes,” it read.   

The affected children are more likely to suffer from social isolation and anxiety, which can continue after they are rehoused.  

This is “particularly acute in secondary children where lack of access to toilet and washing facilities can mean hair and uniform goes unwashed”.  

Pregnant women living in temporary accommodation are less likely to receive consistent early prenantal care, while exposure to long term stress can affect foetal brain development.  

Homelessness is associated with poor nutrition which can increase risk of birth complications, while it can affect the parent/child bond “due to frequent moves and an unpredictable or chaotic environment”.  

Children in temporary accommodation lack access to toys, leading to understimulation, while the lack of space can cause delayed crawling and walking.  

Delayed toilet training, speech delays and bed wetting are also linked to living in temporary accommodation.  

Children affected by homelessness can fall asleep in class while frequent moves are associated with lower educational attainment by the late teens. 

They are more likely to be excluded, miss time at school, and lack the space to study or do homework.  

“Long-term health problems and low educational attainment increase the likelihood of unemployment or working in low-paid jobs.  

“The behavioural problems associated with bad housing – including homelessness, overcrowding and poor quality housing – in childhood can manifest themselves in later offending behaviour.  

“In one study, nearly half of young people who had offended had experienced homelessness,” according to the report. 

The report included issues with the quality of housing – parents told of overcrowding, condemned boilers, dangerous fixtures, rats and mice, and landlords being slow to make repairs.  

“Some felt that private rented sector (PRS) landlords were not being adequately held to account.  

“Parents had experienced used condoms, syringes and other drug paraphernalia in communal spaces, rough sleepers in the hallway, and filthy foul-smelling common parts.  

“One school shared that a five-year-old had seen a man with a gun in the building.  

“All of the parents that gave evidence were single women. They reported feeling isolated and vulnerable in their accommodation.  

“Several parents reported that their children were reluctant to go home from school, due to issues with the accommodation,” the report stated.  

Better communication was cited as a necessary change in the wake of the report, which found that one parent had been told she would likely spend between six weeks and six months waiting to be rehoused, “but had in fact been in temporary accommodation for eight years”.  

Information that helps homeless families should be handed out, according to the report, such as who to go to for housing advice, the role of local MPs and ward councillors and how to contact them, and the rights and responsibilities of tenants, landlords and the council.  

A Lewisham Council spokesperson said: “This important issue was identified by the select committee as an area for review.

“Following that review, the members will have an opportunity to explore their findings further and put questions to council officers at the children and young people select committee on Thursday (January 23).”