By all accounts, Corelle Tertullian is a beautiful young mother of two. The young mother moved out of her family’s home due to uncontrolled overcrowding and landed a place to live in west London. The first placed she lived was a hostel and stayed there as long as needed. Then she moved to someplace more secure in nearby Hanwell. Things were great for the beautiful mother – until December right when she was about to give birth, Corelle was told that she had to move again.
She said, “When I got the phone call, he said, ‘oh, we have a flat for you.’ And then when I came here, I realized obviously this is not a flat. This is a shipping container. When they tell you, they make it out like it’s a flat or a house, but no, it’s a shipping container.”
You read that correctly. This mother of two, who was in need of affordable housing, was shoved away to a metal shipping container that had been converted into “temporary housing.” And she’s not the only one. Corelle lives in a community of people like her, which the state calls a “housing estate.” The location includes 34 shipping containers that are stacked on top of each other and covered in wood to make them appear more comfortable.
“We’re all sleeping in one bed at the moment because I can’t fit the cot in here, there’s no space. There’s no bathtub. Originally I was washing him [her baby] in the kitchen sink, but now I wash him on the floor, getting a cup and washing him that way because he’s too big to fit in the sink now.”
Because the shipping containers offer minimal shelter, Corelle said that there is a lack of circulation and an abundance of heat. To keep relatively comfortable during the season, she must keep doors and windows open and her sons in nothing but diapers.
Another resident refused to give her name. Choosing to remain anonymous, she complained about crying when she realized that she was being asked to live inside an upcycled shipping container.
“When I got here and saw all of this, the container, I was crying.”
In the United Kingdom, Bleak Houses reports that 124,000 children are categorized as homeless or living in “temporary housing.” An additional 90,000 children are stuck in “sofa-surfing families.”
Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, believes that homelessness is “robbing… children of a decent childhood.”
She added, “No child should be spending months if not years living in a converted shipping container, a dodgy old office block or an emergency B&B. We constantly hear from struggling families forced to accept unsuitable, and sometimes downright dangerous accommodation because they have nowhere else to go. The devastating impact this has on a child’s development, and wellbeing cannot be overstated.”
Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield stated: “Something has gone very wrong with our housing system when children are growing up in B&Bs, shipping containers and old office blocks. Children have told us of the disruptive, and at times frightening impact this can have on their lives. It is a scandal that a country as prosperous as ours is leaving tens of thousands of families in temporary accommodation for long periods of time, or to sofa surf.”
What do you think about this housing crisis?