Homeless mothers in South London are living in “disgusting” homes with rodent infestations and light switches that shock their children, with the number of people sleeping on the streets hitting record figures.

Greenwich Council is reportedly seeing record numbers of families seeking temporary accommodation, with the council being responsible for 1,880 households in need of a home at the end of June this year.

The council revealed it was spending up to £800,000 a month on Travelodge bookings to temporarily house families.

One mum, who wished to remain anonymous, said she had been living in a Travelodge on Blackheath Road for three weeks with her two young children.

News Shopper: A general view of the Travelodge in south London, Britain, 20 October 2023. Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon.

The mum said she lost her benefits and job as a project administrator as a result of the Windrush scandal and now works as a carer to feed her children.

She said that Greenwich Council had been doing its best to support her, and helped her get out of a previous property that suffered from a severe lack of maintenance.

She told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS): “I spent five years in that property. The landlord left the country.

"Nothing was done, there was no hot water or heating for two years.

"The building had cracks all over, infestations of mice and rats because there were holes coming into the rooms… My children had electric shocks in the bedroom just from touching the light switch.”

The mum said staff at the Travelodge were excellent and often made an effort to make sure her family were at ease.

She said Greenwich Council has been very helpful in assisting as much as possible while not putting too much pressure on her when she needs to look after her children.

She said: “It’s been nice to have someone. From having depression and anxiety and not sleeping in that previous property, to have them step in and say, ‘Enough is enough, we cannot allow this to happen,’ I feel like it’s reduced my anxiety. “

London Councils said in a statement on November 1 that London’s homelessness crisis was “spiralling out of control”, with data suggesting a record number of people were sleeping rough in the capital.

Combined Homelessness and Information Network figures stated 4,068 people were homeless in London between July and September this year.

The association said in August that one in 50 Londoners were living in temporary accommodation secured by their local authority.

A mum, who wished to remain anonymous, said she was placed in Travelodge Woolwich with her two daughters, aged one and 16 years old, for a week by Greenwich Council after becoming homeless while on maternity leave.

She said the council had been helping where it can, but that no temporary accommodation was available for a family of her size.

The mother told the LDRS: “This is the third move we’ve had in a week. We were placed in a very disgusting drug and alcohol hostel over one weekend.

"I couldn’t even take my 16 year old there. She had to stay with another family member but I did have the baby with me. So it’s not been great.”

She added: “Our social worker has stressed that they are going to try and find us somewhere as soon as possible because it’s just far too expensive for [the council] to be putting us in hotels. Obviously we’re in a family room, so that’s going to be even more expensive than a normal room anyway. But there’s only so much accommodation that’s available and the price of everything is going up.”

The mum said she wants to get back to work but fears being able to afford private accommodation while also feeding her family.

She said not being able to cook in the hotel room has made it difficult to budget meals for her kids, but overall Travelodge staff have been very supportive.

She said: “Obviously I need to eat as well but there’s been days that I’ve gone without just so that they can eat because what money I’m getting, I’m having to budget to make sure that they’re OK. That’s my priority, to make sure the children are OK.”

She added: “The staff have been amazing. There’s like a little juice facility and stuff down there, which you’re not supposed to use during the day but they’ve allowed me to go and get juice and stuff for the baby. They have been brilliant.”

A Greenwich Council spokesperson told the LDRS that the authority provides cash payments for hot meals to those living in hotels.

They said that over 27,000 households were currently on the council’s housing waiting list, and that the current housing supply allowed for the authority to allocate a home to around 1,000 households a year.

They added that methods such as negotiations with landlords and mediation with hosts had allowed the council to prevent over 1,100 households becoming homeless last year.

They told the LDRS: “Like many other local authorities, we are experiencing more and more households approaching us as homeless.

"There is a perfect storm in London as more and more tenants are being given notice by private landlords, combined with a widespread lack in supply of suitable housing, and the spiralling cost of living.

"These factors mean that sometimes we have to place people in accommodation that is not always ideal.”

They added: ”With homelessness at near-record levels and an estimated 166,000 Londoners currently living in temporary accommodation, it is a significant challenge for local authorities across the capital and beyond.

"Locally we are trying to tackle some of the shortfall by building 1,750 new homes specifically for local people on our waiting list and will continue to lobby for greater resources for councils.”

Travelodge was approached for comment, but declined the opportunity to provide a statement.