Calls to help Somali family living on bench outside Tooting TK Maxx
Serious concerns have been raised after a Somali family spent four months living on a high street bench.
The pair, understood to be mother and son, have centered their lives around the bench outside TK Maxx, in the busy Tooting High Street.They have multiple suitcases around them, a sun-lounger and a stool, and the lady, thought to be in her 60s, is often seen sheltering herself under an umbrella.
Each night the family is seen huddled under sleeping bags, sometimes cuddled up to one another.
Her son, thought to be in his late 20s, looks after his mother who spends most of her time on the bench.
Tens of thousands of cars drive past them each day, as well as shoppers. Locals from both the Somali community and others have stopped to offer them help, food and accommodation.
However, they have so far refused help and offers from the council for a roof over their heads.
The Wandsworth Guardian approached the pair, with a lady fluent in both English and Somali, to try to talk to them. However, attempts to engage were rebuffed.
What is known of the woman’s story is that she previously lived inBattersea and her husband died a few years ago.
It is understood his body was left for an extensive amount of time in the home and, following his death, the woman spent a considerable period in hospital.
Local Somalis, who have spoken to the pair, said the woman did not want temporary accommodation she had been offered but wanted to return to what she had before – a council house.
A local Somali, who asked not to be named, said: “I feel sorry for her. I wish somebody could help them. She feels the whole world is against her. I said ‘how do you survive at night?’ she believes she is safe.
“Why don’t they accept help? They are losing weight.
“She feels like: ‘I go into hospital and you take my home away from me’. She wasn’t warned – just went to hospital. Heartbroken.
“Relatives put her in hospital and she doesn’t trust anybody. He looks after her – she was sleeping on his lap the other night.
“She looks in pain sometimes. She has sore legs. She needs help – to go to the doctors.” It is not known how the pair get food or look after themselves but there have been reports of them using the local traders’ toilets.
A spokesman for Wandsworth Council said: “We are fully aware of this issue and have repeatedly tried to engage with the people concerned and offer them help and a proper roof over their heads but sadly all these efforts have been rebuffed.
“Unfortunately they are quite adamant that they do not want any help or support from us, nor from the other agencies who have also been trying very hard to support and assist them.
“We have been in touch with their extended family and also with representatives of the local Somali community in a bid to improve the situation, but sadly it remains unresolved.
“We are of course concerned for their welfare but unfortunately if they are determined not to accept any support then that is their choice and ultimately their right.
“We will of course continue to closely monitor the situation and continue to offer our support and assistance in the hope that they change their minds.”
Source: Your Local Guardian