Hostel for registered homeless people in Englefield Green closes after rat infestation

Brown RatRunnymede Borough Council has taken the decision to permanently close the hostel

A rat-infested council-owned hostel in Englefield Green was evacuated after young families were plagued by the rodents.

The 23-unit building in St Jude’s Road had been used to house those registered as homeless and waiting for council accommodation.

After treatment for rats at the site for around 12 months, residents, predominately made up of small families, were eventually moved into emergency accommodation after tenants obtained footage of the problem and alerted Runnymede Borough Council.

At a meeting of the council’s housing committee on Wednesday, officers stated that they had been made aware of rats spreading to upper floors and individual rooms in November.

Earlier, the bottom floor of the hostel had been made vacant, leaving 18 households on the upper floors.

Ex-tenants, however, say the problem had been highlighted months earlier.

One 25-year-old mother, who wishes to remain anonymous, moved to Ashdene in June and said she was warned by residents not to keep her three-year-old daughter’s pushchair downstairs, for fear that rats would climb over it. “I wasn’t expecting luxury. It was great to have a roof over my head,” she said, having been homeless and living in bed and breakfast accommodation.

“People were saying rats were behind the washing room. There were droppings all over the floor – in the end I was taking washing to friends and family.

“With urine and faeces, they were clearly running around all over the place,” she said.

“The council did come out and said they would get on top of it but nothing really seemed to get done.”

She described the hostel as having communal laundry and ‘stone cold’ bathrooms, with an unreliable security system on the front door.

“It wasn’t as though the council was not trying,” she said. “They baited them and you could smell dead rats until we complained and they baited again but I do not think they really realised how bad the infestation was. The rats were bold as brass.

“They seemed drugged up from the poison, docile, running up the stairs. Someone would bang the door and they would slowly turn their heads.

“Pretty much everyone in there had children. Students added their rubbish bags and litter from people leaving a next door newsagents into the hedges. There was a permanent food supply for them.”

She was moved with her child to alternative accommodation in November.

“We had all been reporting it for weeks before that happened,” she said.

Baiting rats

Another resident said he was told by an officer that rats were present in Ashdene when he moved in with his partner and five-week-old baby in September, after a tenancy agreement had already been signed.

Originally placed in a ground floor flat, he described seeing rats in the family’s one bedroom.

“I kept hearing scratching sounds and I moved my bed, with the baby in the same room. I saw three rats’ tails just disappear under the floor and went straight to the council. They came over and put me straight upstairs.”

In November, he filmed further evidence of the rodents and asked to be evacuated from the property, prompting an inspector’s visit. Residents then received calls saying they would be moved immediately.

On Tuesday, council officers said residents had been placed at risk of disease and fire, as rats ate their way through power cables and affected lighting.

Runnymede Borough Council’s head of housing, Pat Hollingsworth, confirmed that new and existing residents had been informed the council had been treating and baiting rats at Ashdene earlier in the year. However, when the infestation escalated in November, all residents were moved to hotels and then alternative temporary accommodation for health and safety reasons.

“The causes of the infestation are currently being investigated,” she said.

“On Wednesday, the housing committee took the decision to permanently close Ashdene. The council is now investigating the disposal of the building.

“No firm decisions have been made and a further report will be brought back to the housing committee with recommendations later in the year.”

The decision to close the hostel comes as Runnymede prepares to lose further temporary accommodation units in Addlestone this month, resulting in the loss of almost 50% of places for homeless households within the borough.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.