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Blind man in 70s left waiting out in the cold for eight hours after council failings

By Tara O’Connor, local democracy reporter

A 71-year-old blind man was left waiting in the cold for eight hours when Croydon Council failed to find him emergency accommodation.

It happened after the electricity and water was cut off at his block of flats in Gillett Road following a leak.

It is just the latest in a long list of issues that residents of the 11-storey tower block have been facing for years.

Many of the residents didn’t want to be named and none pictured for fear of being “blacklisted” by Croydon Council.

On Sunday (October 17), a leak from a second floor flat caused the power to go out affecting the lift, water supply and electricity to the block. Residents say it wasn’t restored until Tuesday.

A 71-year-old man who lives on the 11th floor was offered emergency accommodation for the night.

The blind man who didn’t want to give his name was left waiting in the lobby from 4.30pm until midnight.

Croydon Council said the offer was made by Careline but he chose to stay with a neighbour instead.

This isn’t the view of Violet Mawa, 32, who ended up taking him in for the night.

The mum who lives on the second floor said: “I was going up and down to check up on him, it got to about 11.30pm I made him coffee then called his social worker asking them how long it was going to be.

“They came and gave him a sandwich and a bottle of water. At midnight he was shaking so I brought him into my flat.

“At 1.30am we were still waiting and they said they couldn’t find any accommodation, they said ‘why does he live on the 11th floor?’

“He asked me to walk him to the train station where he was going to sleep, he could be my father or grandfather I said ‘stay on my sofa’.

“I put myself and my daughter at risk because I didn’t know him. Why was I doing the council’s work? I shouldn’t be doing that.”

The man told us this was just the latest in a string of issues he has had at his flat since he moved there in 2007.

In 2016 the council put black plastic on the ceiling of his lounge when he reported in a leak, nothing has been done since and when the Local Democracy Reporting Service visited he discovered more water leaking into his kitchen.

The windows in the flat are so draughty he blocks them up with boxes too.

The LDRS spoke to dozens of residents in the block who claim they have repeatedly complained to the council about issues in their flats.

And 85-year-old Shardaben Patel was stuck in a lift for a whole hour when the power went out.

She claims she was told “I can’t help you” when she pressed the emergency help button.

The resident added that the front doors of the building often don’t work meaning that anyone can come into the building, which they do.

Sylvija, who also lives in the 11th floor, has huge cracks in her ceiling and can no longer use the electricity in her living room.

She has been battling the council to fix the flat since 2018 when she moved in with son, now four.

The 28-year-old said: “They moved me in there when there was a problem with the roof, they knew there was a problem.”

Outside, her balcony is rusting and pieces of metal crumble in her hands as she touches them.

Amanda Edwards, 33, has two boys aged three and five and has been at the block for three years – it is supposed to be temporary accommodation.

When the power went out this week she was told the council would drop off water outside each flat, but she claims it was instead left downstairs and gone by the time she walked down 10 flights of stairs with her kids.

“It was really hard showering the children, they said they put water by our doors but I never saw it,” said Amanda.

“The water has gone off before but never for this length of time.”

Akbar Delshad, 53, only moved into the block four months ago but has already had to have council maintenance workers round to fix issues with the water pressure, which he says is still too low.

A 73-year-old woman who has lived in the block since 2016 says she regularly gets mice in her flats and she has asked for the council to fill in holes in her cupboard.

While her 78-year-old friend who has lived there for 20 years says it’s hard to get through to anyone from the council when they have problems.

He said: “Years ago there used to be a care taker then they removed everything.

“We no longer have a voice here, who can we talk to.”

A 39-year-old man who recently moved into the block from emergency accommodation couldn’t believe the state of the flat he was given.

The walls in the bathroom can be seen bubbling with water and there is a smell of damp.

He currently sleeps on the floor and currently has no hot water or heating – he was told somebody would come to fix it more than a week ago.

Around the first floor of the block is scaffolding – one residents says this is to catch falling masonry from the upper floors of the building.

But it is now covered in rubbish which people have dropped there.

It attracts mice and means that some people have the rubbish piling directly outside their windows.

Mr Williams, 57, has been in the block since July the leak which caused the problem earlier this week happened in his bathroom.

He said: “When they came to do the work they pulled this metal copper pipe out, it was completely corroded, I never knew copper could corrode in this way.”

A spokesperson for Croydon Council said: “Council officers were called out to a block of flats in Gillet Road where a leak in a bath in one of the flats caused a power outage.

“Officers on site arranged for the utility provider to fix the issue overnight and restore the electricity and water supply to the building.”

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