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Elderly people fear being forced out of Thornton Heath sheltered accommodation

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FURIOUS pensioners have accused Croydon Council of "running roughshod" over the elderly after revealing plans to move homeless families into their sheltered accommodation in Thornton Heath.

Residents of the Gillett Road Sheltered Housing Scheme are fuming over plans which they fear will force them out of their homes.

The council want to move homeless families out of their temporary bed-and-breakfast places into the block.

But Paul Phillips, 73, secretary of Gillett, Garnett and Laxton Court Residents' Association, said: "It will cause huge disruption to a lot of elderly people's lives. You can't have frail, elderly people living in the same place as kids running around – the two don't mix.

"Some of us are worried we might have to move out, which we do not want to do at this stage of our lives."

The residents have begun a petition to fight the proposals.

Malcolm Felberg, 79, a retired PR consultant, said: "If you have single-parent families, then it is natural they will have visitors over late at night and play music at the weekend.

"We understand what it is like to be young but we have come here to get away from that.

"The council are running roughshod over the elderly. They don't give a second thought about us."

Residents claim the council officers who informed them of the plans did not provide any written details and spoke "like someone from MI5".

Mr Felberg added: "You would have needed a computer to work out what they were telling us."

David Sykes, 73, a former security guard with chronic bronchitis and emphysema, said the location is ideal for the elderly because the flats are opposite Thornton Heath Health Centre.

He said: "We aren't young anymore and we need to be looked after. Cuts mean they have taken our wardens away so we already feel more unsafe.

"They are just not big enough for families. They will be packing them in like sardines."

A council spokesman said: "Like most local authorities, the council has faced a significant increase in homelessness and expects this to continue for the foreseeable future.

"This proposal will help the council to manage homelessness and be more cost effective to the taxpayer, as it will reduce the council's reliance on expensive nightly paid accommodation such as bed and breakfasts.

"We are considering Gillett because it is a difficult to let high-rise tower blocks and we know that generally, older people prefer ground-floor accommodation."

The spokesman said that "nobody will move if they don't want to," adding: "There are a number of suitable alternatives near to Gillett, which people could potentially move to.

"We will be assisting them every step of the way should they choose to move."

An event aimed at getting overcrowded tenants and those with spare rooms to exchange homes has led to almost 200 requests to view properties. From April 1 – as part of the so-called 'bedroom tax' – working-age tenants living in homes with spare bedrooms will have their housing benefit cut by 14 per cent for one spare room and 25 per cent for two. Croydon Council has said about 1,200 council tenants are currently living in under-occupied homes and will be affected by the benefit changes. To help tenants find a more suitably sized home and avoid the benefit reduction, the council held a borough-wide property swap event at the Fairfield Halls on Tuesday last week. More than 200 people attended and the council received 198 requests to view properties. A similar event is being planned for the coming months. Mother-of-three Binta Barry, who lives in West Croydon, is looking for a three or four-bedroom property. The 49-year-old, who came to the Fairfield Halls event, said: "There are lots of people like me who want a bigger home. It's not going to be easy. I'm glad they organised this event and I hope they can hold more in the future." Tenants looking to downsize may also be able to claim financial assistance to help with the costs of moving to a smaller home. This could be in the form of a special transfer payment scheme which pays £2,000 for each bedroom freed up, with the maximum payment set at £8,000. Call 020 8726 6100 for more information.

Elderly people fear being forced out of Thornton Heath sheltered accommodation


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