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Somali mother and son are still living on bench outside library

The Somalian pair used to live in a council flat in Battersea - three miles north of Tooting but after the death of a family member, they were unable to afford the rent.

by Jack Kinnersley Jun 5th 2020 ยท 5 min read
A mother and son have been living on high-street benches in south London for six years after being evicted from their flat in February 2014 by Wandsworth Council
A mother and son have been living on high-street benches in south London for six years after being evicted from their flat in February 2014 by Wandsworth Council

A mother and son have been living on high-street benches in south London for six years after being evicted from their flat despite repeated attempts by Wandsworth Council to rehouse them.

The Somalian pair used to live in a council flat in Battersea - three miles north of Tooting but after the death of a family member, they were unable to afford the rent and in February 2014, Wandsworth Council evicted them.

Temporary accommodation had been lined up for them, according to the BBC, but the mother, who is believed to be in her 70s did not show up with her son who is in his 30s.

The Somalian mother who is in her 70s sleeps alongside her son who is in his 30s outside a library in Tooting, south London
The Somalian mother who is in her 70s sleeps alongside her son who is in his 30s outside a library in Tooting, south London

They ended up living on a bench outside a TK Maxx store on Upper Tooting Road a few hundred metres from the bench where they currently sleep outside a library in Tooting. 

In December 2014, they were hospitalised because of the cold weather and the bench they had been living on was removed by the council because it was 'in their best interests'.

The mother tried to return to the bench after she was was discharged while her son remained in hospital for a while longer, only to find the bench had gone. 

According to the Wandsworth Times, the woman was heartbreakingly found huddled up on a chair nearby using an umbrella to shelter her from the rain. 

Temporary accommodation had been lined up for them, but the mother, who is believed to be in her 70s did not show up with her son who is in his 30s
Temporary accommodation had been lined up for them, but the mother, who is believed to be in her 70s did not show up with her son who is in his 30s

In April 2015, the mother and son moved to a bench outside Tooting library and have been there ever since. 

It has been reported that the Somali community feel hurt by the case as they have repeatedly offered the mother and son lodging in people's homes but like the council they have been rebuffed.

It is understood that the council believe it would be cruel and futile to move them on as the mother and son would just find another bench. 

A social worker is believed to visit them every two or three weeks and local charities are also involved with them. 

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF MOTHER AND SON WHO HAVE SET UP CAMP OUTSIDE A PUBLIC LIBRARY IN LONDON


10.30am: The mother and her son wake up

10.45am: The son, believed to be in his 20s, urinates in the corner up against the Tooting Library 

11am: The pair enjoy breakfast, which typically consists of a honey sandwich

Noon: They drink takeaway coffees and the son listens to his MP3 player

1pm: The mother goes into the library when it opens and the pair then go for a walk  

2pm: The son goes and collects their lunch of chicken and chips

2.45pm: The woman goes for a walk and he reads a book under his umbrella 

4.20pm: He has an afternoon nap 

7pm: They share a coffee

8pm: He sprays himself with deodorant and she applies hand and face cream

9pm: The son collects more chicken for them to eat  

10.30pm: The mother falls asleep and he listens to his MP3 player

Midnight: The tarpaulin goes over and they both sleep 

A photo taken by Wandsworth Council of the flat the Somalian pair were offered to live in
A photo taken by Wandsworth Council of the flat the Somalian pair were offered to live in

Numerous properties have been offered to the Somalian pair but they have all been turned down. 

A statement from Wandsworth Council last October said: 'Over the last few years Wandsworth Council has offered them four different properties to move into, all very pleasant and fully refurbished, including the original property where they used to live, but they turned all of them down without viewing them. 

'Currently, a property is being held vacant for them and our social work team continues to liaise regularly with the family to try and persuade them to accept it.'

The statement adds that if people refuse offers of help, 'that is their decision and choice - we cannot force people to accept our help.'

In December 2014, they were hospitalised because of the cold weather and the bench they had been living on was removed from the council because it was 'in their best interests'
In December 2014, they were hospitalised because of the cold weather and the bench they had been living on was removed from the council because it was 'in their best interests'

It goes on: 'Wandsworth Council is enormously concerned for their welfare and has done everything it can to try and resolve this issue and get them off the streets. 

'We will continue to work alongside health partners and other agencies, including the police and local charities, as well as the local Somali community, in closely monitoring this situation - including the physical and mental well-being of these two people and their capacity to make decisions.'

Wandsworth Council have been approached by the MailOnline for further comment.

The average of a rough sleeper at death is 44 years for men and 42 years for women according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The ONS estimated that 597 homeless people died in 2017 in England and Wales - mainly on the street. 

A story wrote by BBC about the family last year:

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last updated: 2020-06-05@08:06