A mother whose partner tried to kill her while pregnant was told to move 158 miles away from her home or face becoming homeless.
The 34-year-old woman was given just days by Hackney Council in London to decide between relocating to Stoke on Trent with her young daughter or intentional homelessness.
‘Zehra’ told the Hackney Citizen that if she does not make the switch, the authority’s legal duty to find her a home would be withdrawn.
She was given until 1pm on Friday to make that decision after first finding out on Monday, Stoke on Trent Live reports.
It comes after she was forced to flee Turkey for the UK last year after her partner attempted to murder her.
She is on medication for anxiety and depression and is receiving treatment and therapy at a local women’s centre.
Zehra’s predicament comes just months after a heavily pregnant woman in a similar situation also faced the same stark choice.
She said: “I can’t really manage by myself, and I don’t have anybody in the UK to support or help me, apart from cousins and one very close friend in London.
“All the Turkish community are round here too, so I feel safer than I would in Stoke-on-Trent.
“When I went there, I thought, ‘Oh my God, what will happen when I move here?’ They told me they would put me close to or in London, because I’m receiving therapy.
“I’m just scared. I don’t know what I’m going to do if I go there, because I don’t know anybody there. I’m still shocked, because on Monday I heard [that this was the plan], and I don’t know what will happen on Friday. I don’t know what they’re doing to me.”
Zehra had fled her partner’s violence when her baby was just a few days old to another Turkish city, and then subsequently to the UK where she has family and friends in north-east London.
A recent meeting at the Town Hall with Hackney’s Settled Homes Team was a catalyst for an anxiety attack.
She added: “[The officer] was shocked, so they changed the person.
“She was talking to me like I was stupid, saying to me, ‘I am going to move you anywhere in the UK. Do you understand? Anywhere in the UK.’”
Zehra was a primary school teacher in Turkey, and hopes to go back to the classroom as soon as she can in the UK, though she will have to start out as a teaching assistant.
She claims she has received no information or support from the council as to what amenities or services are on offer for her in Stoke-on-Trent, which she visited having been met at the station by representatives of private company PAK Relocation.
The council say that discussions with the Move On Team take place over “several months”, and that decisions are made alongside the resident taking into account their needs such as medical care or where their employment is located.
Involvement of the residents concerned is said to be a “key part of the process”, with the policy being that likely locations are discussed “weeks, often months” in advance of a move, though the Town Hall accepts that only a short window is allowed residents to make their decision.
Zehra added: “One of my close friends [who lives nearby] is supporting me. When I’m getting panic attacks or depression, she comes and helps to look after my child.
“[The council] know everything and that I’m taking therapy. I came to Hackney because my cousins and friends live near here.
“My whole support network is in north-east London, that’s why I applied to Hackney for help.”
A council spokesperson said: “Hackney is facing an unprecedented housing crisis, with 13,000 families now on our growing housing waiting list, 3,000 households living in hostels, bed and breakfasts and other temporary accommodation, and a 40 per cent increase in the number of families coming to us for help with homelessness since the Homelessness Reduction Act came in 2018.
“Despite the huge challenge of finding even interim homes for these families in Hackney, we have been able to place two thirds of families in temporary accommodation here in the borough.
“Where we have no choice but to use accommodation elsewhere, we always work closely with the family to ensure any care, support or medical needs are taken into account, and do what we can to assist them with relocating.
“The initial offer of settled accommodation made to this family is currently under review, and we will continue to work closely with them to ensure they are suitably housed.”
- Some details have been changed to protect Zehra’s identity.