UK

The Somali mother and son who have chosen to live on a high street bench for three years

A Somali mother and son have been living on a high street bench for three years after turning down two-bedroom council flats in London.

Wandsworth Council has desperately tried to rehouse them and offered the pair two refurbished properties in Tooting, south west London, which typically cost £1,500 a month.

But they chose to remain on the bench despite last-ditch pleas from their family and members of the local Somali community.

The mother and son have been homeless since December 2014 when they were evicted from the flat they shared in Tooting. It is thought a death in the family and a period of hospitalisation led to them living on the streets.

They spent time on a different bench outside TK Maxx – further down Tooting High Street – but it seems the family members have now found a new spot directly outside the local library.

Photographs show the son urinating up against the library wall and the pair sitting on the bench throughout the day before they finally pull a tarpaulin over them just after midnight.

By 10.30am, they are both usually awake and they typically have a honey sandwich 30 minutes later.

Throughout the day, the mother, who is believed to be in her 60s, speaks to people as they walk past and her son, thought to be in his 20s, sits next to her on the bench.

Residents who live in the area often give the pair food and water, before the mother and son pull a tarpaulin sheet over their heads to keep warm through the night, with their belongings stacked under and beside the bench.

The mother and son are usually in good spirits and enjoy speaking to people who walk past and talk to them on Tooting High Street

On one particular Sunday, Around noon, he listened to his MP3 player and they went for a walk after eating chicken and chips together.

After napping, the mother applied hand a face cream and was asleep by 10.30pm – while he stayed up and listened to music. At midnight, he pulled the tarpaulin over the pair and they both fell asleep.

Back in 2014, the couple were evicted from their property in Tooting back after failing to pay their rent and have been on the street ever since.

A source told MailOnline that charities, members of their family, the police and people from the local Somali community have all failed to get them off the bench.

The most recent property they have been offered was just off Tooting High Street and two bed properties typically cost £1,500 per calendar month.

It comes with a newly-fitted kitchen and bathroom, but the couple declined the offer and prefer to remain on the bench.

The council described the situation as being a ‘difficult and complex case’ and said the mother and son ‘will not accept any offers’.

A day in the life of a homeless Somali Mother and son, who have lived on a bench outside Tooting Library, London, since 2014.

A Wandsworth Council spokesman: ‘This is a very difficult and complex case involving two people who simply will not accept any of the offers of help they have received from the many different agencies and charities who have been involved in trying to find a solution to this problem.

‘The council offered them two very pleasant and fully refurbished two-bedroom flats in Tooting that they could have moved into straight away – but they turned both down without even looking at them.

‘If people refuse to accept offers of help then that is their decision and their choice. We cannot force people to accept our help.

‘Since this issue arose we have repeatedly tried to engage with them but these efforts have all been rebuffed.

‘We have enlisted the help of their extended family and representatives of the local Somali community, but no-one has been able to persuade them to come in off the streets.

‘We are of course enormously concerned for their welfare and are continuing to closely monitor the situation and offer support in the hope that they change their minds.’

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