"In 11 years of working on the Decent Homes Programme I’d never seen anything like it” said Darren Denham, Breyer Group’s Site Manager, as he covered his mouth and stepped over the threshold into the property at Cranbrook Road. Black mould covered everything; the walls, ceilings, bed, curtains, bath and what few other items there were. However, “it was the way the spores blanketed your mouth and throat when you breathed in that made it unbelievable that this had been someone’s home for the last few years” recalled Mark Meager, the site Foreman. The date was 8th December. This was to be no ordinary project. To transform this flat in time for Christmas would require a Herculean task of commitment, resources and timing.
There had been no response to letters or telephone calls from either the client, Redbridge Homes, or the Breyer team who wanted to come and survey the property. Beginning to lose hope, Darren contacted Breyer Resident Liaison Officer, Shuzna Begum, to take things up. After several more attempts Shuzna, who speaks Hindi, finally made contact with the tenant.
The 82 year old tenant speaks no English, has no relatives or friends nearby and lived isolated from the rest of the community. She had not used gas due to cost and survived on £10 a week used for electricity, picking up free meals from the Salvation Army when she could. There was no kettle, cups or crockery. She would have been entitled to various social benefits to improve her home, however, the tenants isolation and language barriers left her open to abuse. The one supposed friend was claiming benefits on her behalf yet not passing them on, leaving her destitute. A matter now being investigated by the authorities.
Learning the plight of the Tenant through Shuzna as an interpreter really inspired and galvanised the Breyer and Redbridge teams: no-one had come across a more worthy reason to create a Decent Home.
There were approximately two weeks before Christmas to get the project completed. Success depended on three major factors: Firstly, finding a temporary home to decant the tenant whilst the work was carried out. Second, the flat needed to be re-wired and a new kitchen fitted before any other work could begin. Third, a robust and highly tuned supply chain would be needed for everything to fall in place with such short timescales.
After several phone calls and much pleading, a care home was found and the tenant was whisked away. Rixonway Kitchens, drew up a plan on the afternoon of the 8th December. It was approved and finances put in place the next day. The kitchen was fitted and completed by the 12th December, just 4 days later. Usually the Decent Homes programme focuses on kitchens and bathrooms, however, the severity of this project meant new floors, cleaning and decorating were carried out throughout the flat including hallways and bedrooms.
With the spirit of Christmas drawing near, the teams went even further. Breyer wanted to help the tenant to come back to a better life, not just a better home. A new cooker, fridge, microwave, toaster, kettle and crockery were bought for the kitchen. A disabled person’s shower, rail and curtain together with a bath board were fitted in the bathroom. A new bed was purchased by Redbridge Homes, the old one rotten through with mould. The few other artefacts were taken away and cleaned and prepared for her return. The work was completed by 21st December. A total refurbishment in less than two weeks.
On 22nd December Breyer collected the tenant from her temporary accommodation together with her son who had come tovisitfromIndia. Uponarrival,shewasaskedtocoverhereyes, enter the flat and go into the kitchen. “When she opened her eyes it was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. She wondered through the house touching our hands and making prayer signs.” Said Darren. “Everyone really pulled together for this: Redbridge Homes, Breyer Group and our sub-contractor BoroughPropertyMaintenance. I’mimmenselyproudofwhat we’ve achieved and delighted about the huge difference we’ve been able to make to someone’s life”.