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Housing

Family left with sewage running down kitchen walls for months

Dawn Page and her 11-year-old daughter Jaycie have spent three months waiting for human waste leaks to be fixed at their social housing flat in south London.

A single mother claims she was told her social home was fine to live in despite human waste dripping down the walls in the kitchen and the bathroom.

Dawn Page was horrified when she saw sewage leaking from the walls throughout the ground-floor flat where she has lived for 22 years in Mitcham, south London. It left her kitchen cupboards covered with flies and smelling of excrement.

Renting Dawn Page
Dawn Page and daughter Jaycie have both felt the effects of the leaks on both their health and Jaycie’s school life. Image: Dawn Page

The 50-year-old and her 11-year daughter Jaycie were forced to live with the problem for four weeks and have now spent 11 weeks in a hotel room four miles away in Croydon while waiting for the issue to be fixed.

“I noticed the bathroom towels were starting to brown and then brown stuff was coming through the tiles. Then in the kitchen brown sewage water started dripping down the sides of the cupboards,” said Dawn, a former carer.

“The damp smell – the shit smell – that’s gonna take forever to come out. That’s not going to do me or my daughter much good. I can feel it on my chest when I’m there.

“They basically told me I was fine to live there. They said it wasn’t a health issue or anything and I could carry on cooking, living and eating.

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“I’ve had enough of feeling this way, I just want a home. It’s draining me.”

Dawn told The Big Issue she first noticed the issues at the two-bedroom flat on July 5 and she claimed she was told the flat was “safe to live in” after notifying the housing association Clarion.

Dawn then escalated the complaint to the environmental health department at Merton Council, who informed her of the sickening reality, forcing Dawn to throw out all the food from her kitchen.

In an email exchange seen by The Big Issue, Dawn was told: “You will need to be decanted, if this issue cannot be addressed immediately. The reason being sewage waste in a kitchen is not conducive to food hygiene, contamination and safety.”

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She was later moved to a hotel in August with Clarion covering the costs of her stay and her food.

A Clarion spokesperson told The Big Issue: “The safety and wellbeing of our residents is our top priority. In August, when we became aware of the problems Ms Page was experiencing, we moved her into temporary accommodation. The leak has now been rectified but the repair works which were required as a result of the leak were delayed as a disrepair claim had subsequently been lodged by Ms Page.

“It is unfortunate that the delays caused by having to follow the disrepair protocol have meant that Ms Page and her family have been out of their home longer than would have otherwise been the case. We are working hard on getting her and her family back home as soon as possible.”

But in the 11 weeks since Dawn, who is unable to work due to a bowel problem and COPD, and her daughter moved into the hotel room, work has still not been completed to fix the issues with her two-bedroom property.

The ordeal has put tremendous strain on her mental health, she told The Big Issue, while being uprooted from their home for 11 weeks has had a big effect on the pair’s personal lives, restricting their diet and forcing the 11-year-old to be late for school.

And Dawn claimed it is not the first time she has encountered a problem with the property either – the same thing happened to another part of her social home two years ago and she spent six months living away from the flat while Clarion fixed leaks in a bedroom.

“It’s just too much,” added Dawn. “My child’s not getting to school on time most of the time because the cabs are not turning up or turning up late. I’m having to rush to try and get a bus which is difficult with my health conditions.

“I have to get a bus and a tram to get back and forth. Or I have to get a bus and walk and I’ve got COPD, I’ve got a bowel condition and a hernia. I’m not even meant to lift, carry or do anything. So it’s really difficult in a hotel room.

“Realistically, the food that we’re getting at the hotel is just a set menu which has been exactly the same for the last 11 weeks. So basically, we’re living on pizza. If I’m bothering at all.”

Kwajo Tweneboa, a social housing tenant who has turned campaigner after a three-year dispute with Clarion over the condition of his family’s own council house in Mitcham, shared footage of the pair’s kitchen on social media. 

The 23-year-old described the home as “one of the worst I have seen” and described the situation as “literally faeces running down people’s walls” in the video.

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“The condition of Dawn’s property is one of the worst I have seen having spoken and visited hundreds of social housing residents,” Kwajo told The Big Issue. “The fact Clarion has just left Dawn and her family to suffer just shows they don’t care and they will continue trying to justify their abuse and neglect of residents.

“Nobody should be having human waste pour down their walls in their ‘home’. Yet again Clarion don’t see that as an emergency or else it would’ve been sorted. Dawn and other social housing tenants are more than just a rental amount at the end of the month. Disgraceful.”

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