Inside the ‘human warehouse’ where desperate families live in office block flats

Tenants of an office block concerted into flats say they are "scared" to live in the "slum" tower.

The block of flats has been described as a "human warehouse" where desperate families with young children live alongside former prisoners and drug addicts.

They say there are frequent fights and incidents of drug-taking.

The former office block is one the tallest buildings in Harlow, Essex, and is in an area surrounded by warehousing – it was described by one person as a "slum".

The 14-storey Terminus House is one of hundreds around England that been converted into housing without any requirement for planning permission from their local council as 'emergency' homes.

Some among the hundreds of tenants in Terminus House have described a grim environment – with claims of ex-cons living in the accommodation, antisocial behaviour, drug abuse and fighting.

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The housing organisation that runs the  flats at the centre of the complaints has roundly rejected the criticism – saying it was filling a housing gap left by struggling housing associations and councils.

Single mum Kylie Yangiou who lives in the block called her living situation a “nightmare.”

She told the BBC she had seen people fighting and overdosing in the property, terrifying her three-year-old boy.

"The minute he says 'mummy I'm scared' I just lose my temper and have to go outside and literally drag men out of the hallway," she said.

"And to be honest, I am homeless – how can I turn round and say I don't want that? I am homeless. How can I turn something down?"

Mum-of-four Melanie Smith, who lives in a tiny one-bed studio, with the kitchen, oven, sink and bed all in this same room with her two sons, said the block’s residents were “scary”.

"The wall next to me – I had to clean the blood off it two weeks ago.

"You don't want them [the children] going down there – I don't want them thinking this is normal."

A mum who lives in Terminus House sister property, Templefield House, which is about a 10-minute drive away, has also described her grim living conditions.

Speaking to Essex Live last year, Sophie Odell described her family of four living in a council flat so tiny she couldn't cook property meals and her bed was in the living area.

She and her partner told how they had been living in temporary accommodation for more than three years with a toddler and baby in tow, due to long housing waiting lists for council flats.

"My bed is in my living area. When I go to the toilet I see my son in bed," the part-time cleaner said.

"His bed is in my kitchen area and my daughter's cot is in the living area. Me and my partner have to sit in the dark from 7pm onwards as we can't have lights on as it wakes them up."

At the time, Harlow Council said it was trying to find larger alternative accommodation for the family.

Caridon Property released a statement following a BBC exposé on its two Essex properties, Terminus and Templefields House.

It said the homes "are not intended as permanent accommodation but as a stepping stone on as part of a wider housing journey".

"The alternative for many of our residents would a room in a hostel or B&B, where they’d have less space, security and privacy, or homelessness," a spokesperson for Caridon wrote.

"Changes by successive governments to housing and welfare mean the private sector is increasingly responsible for providing such accommodation, as councils and housing associations lack the capacity."

The spokesperson said Caridon was "incredibly proud" of housing some of society's "most vulnerable" people.

“While there have been some issues in our buildings a number of the incidents have been exaggerated, distorted or occurred months ago," its spokesperson claimed.

"We always cooperate fully with Essex Police, who we have a good relationship with, regularly sharing information and intelligence, and take a zero tolerance approach to drug dealing."

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