Greenwich Council spends £800k a month on Travelodge bookings

Greenwich Council documents from a cabinet meeting on October 18 showed that the local authority had spent £800,000 placing those in need of emergency accommodation in Travelodge rooms in June this year.

Council officers claimed the authority was responsible for 1,880 households in temporary accommodation at the end of June, the highest the council had ever seen. Out of this figure, over 200 of these households were in hotels.

One man, who wished to remain anonymous, said he was living in Travelodge Woolwich from December last year until February after being placed there by the council with help from Thames Reach, a London-based charity aimed at supporting those sleeping rough.

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

He said he used to be a postal worker and keyholder for a newsagents, but became homeless and slept on Powis Street in Woolwich after struggling with alcoholism.

He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS): “I lived here [on the street] for about two months.

“You had kids coming round squirting me with water. We had kids at about 3am having a go at me, just looking for fights and I would be sleeping down on the kerb.”

He added: “I’m in another place 1699424287 but the room stinks, and not from me. I’ve heard from other tenants that some bloke died in there.

“For three weeks there was a dead body. You can’t get rid of the smell. It’s a private landlord… You’re trying to get to sleep and you’ve got these mice going around. You can hear them on the floorboards.”

The man said the staff at the Travelodge were very helpful and rooms in the hotel were always clean.

However, he struggled to feed himself during his stay as he had not been told about the complimentary breakfast he was entitled to each morning.

He said: “I was sitting in the foyer and the council officer said my stay had been extended. She explained it to me and said, ‘You know you get free breakfast?’ They didn’t tell me that for six weeks. The whole time I was going around hungry. Christmas Day, Christmas Eve in the room. You can hear your stomach churning,”

He added: “They’re good guys in [Travelodge]. We had a good chat. Back then, I probably wouldn’t have survived. Especially in December and January, they’re the cold months.”

Kevin Gladman, 55, was placed in Travelodge Woolwich for two weeks by the British Legion, after having served in the military for 15 years.

He said he was evicted by his private landlady at 1am earlier this year, and has struggled to secure temporary housing for him and his dog, Dylan, with Greenwich Council.

Mr Gladman told the LDRS: “For the first three weeks, I was living in toilets in Tube stations, toilets in the hospital, especially with the dog as well which was hard…

“Then I managed to get enough money together to buy myself a cheap tent. I bought a tent and pitched it up in the woods, and I’ve been there for literally nearly four months.”

He added: “I got smashed out last night. The rain was so heavy that my tent that I was in just absolutely got flattened. I haven’t been dry for nine days.

“My feet are soaking wet… This is the first night I’ll be able to have a shower. I haven’t had a shower for four months. They’ve allowed my dog. I said I can’t live without my dog because he’s my only companion.”

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

Combined Homelessness and Information Network figures show that 4,068 people were sleeping on the streets of London between July and September this year.

The association claimed in August that one in 50 Londoners were living in temporary accommodation arranged by their local council.

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.

A Greenwich Council spokesperson 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.”

The council said it also works alongside Thames Reach to support homeless individuals after being alerted from referrals and through night time searches.

Bill Tidnam, CEO of Thames Reach, told the LDRS that the charity had seen a particular increase in rough sleeping and people staying in unsuitable temporary accommodation due to the shortage of affordable housing. He said the charity’s outreach services work to find people sleeping on the streets and source suitable accommodation where possible.

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

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