Just seven days' notice given people living in the Amity Hostel
Alex Forbes outside court hoping to get the closure of the hostel halted. Picture: Alex Forbes
December 21, 2022
A teaching assistant was one of a dozen people evicted from their homes at a Wimbledon hostel with little notice, earlier this month. Alex Forbes who has now spent weeks living in a hotel said it has “cancelled” Christmas for him this year.
The school worker had lived at Amity Hostel in Wimbledon Hill Road for two years. He was given just seven days’ notice that he would lose his home when the hostel closed on 1 December and has since been living in a hotel in Croydon.
He has since been in touch with Merton Council’s homelessness team and hopes to get a temporary place to live at the YMCA in Wimbledon.
He said, “From what they are telling me I am right down the bottom of the list. It has cancelled Christmas for me really. I am struggling to find any reason to celebrate, I just want to be on my own.”
Mr Forbes was paying £650 a month for his room at the hostel and chose it as his home because of the reasonable rent and good location in the centre of Wimbledon.
He said on the day he was evicted he spoke to a teenager living at the hostel with his dad who had no idea where the pair would be living when he returned from school that day.
A letter dated 25 November from Amity College, which ran the hostel, read, “This hostel will not be able to extend the stay of guests from 30 November until further notice. This means all guests will have to find an alternative place to stay and vacate the hostel on 1 December. We deeply regret the inconvenience this may cause but have no choice.”
Amity Hostel was based in part of the bank buildings in Wimbledon. Picture: Alex Forbes
Mr Forbes claims residents were not given a reason why they were being turfed out but there are plans to turn the former bank building, where it was based, into a new hotel. Permission to keep the shops on the ground floor, but change the upper floors into a new hotel, was granted by Merton Council in March 2022.
The hostel tenant said the condition of the accommodation had deteriorated and when it rained heavily a few weeks ago, rain poured through two floors.
He said, “I think the landlord is negligent for letting people live in there but I also think the council are to blame. The first floor was full up with people placed there by Merton Council.”
Merton Council also confirmed the hostel had outstanding business rates and it had instructed bailiffs to recover the money. Mr Forbes also claims he is owed around £100 in overpaid rent but has struggled to get in touch with anyone about it.
The day before the residents were evicted Mr Forbes went to Croydon County Court in a last-ditch attempt to get the closure halted with a form he got from the housing charity Shelter but was unsuccessful as he had the incorrect documents and no time to try again.
Merton Council’s cabinet member for housing, councillor Andrew Judge, said, “We were concerned recently to hear about the closure of the Amity Hostel, which is a private business and had not told the council they were closing their doors. At the time of its closure, only one council client was still based there, and that person had already been found alternative accommodation.
“The council had used Amity Hostel as part of the emergency response during the Covid lockdown when we had 24 hours to find accommodation for rough sleepers. At that time, we provided wraparound support for clients placed there including twice-weekly delivery of food and other day-to-day essentials. Those residents previously placed by Merton Council in the hostel had nearly all moved on by the time of the recent closure to more stable accommodation such as rooms in shared houses or supported housing (for those with high support needs).
“The council is now assisting others not placed there by the council, but who have been made homeless by the closure. The council is not involved in the management of any temporary accommodation – it is the provider’s responsibility to ensure that the property is in a good state of repair. “
The landlords of the building did not wish to comment and Amity College was contacted.
Tara O'Connor - Local Democracy Reporter