CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Chalcots volunteers say they are being blocked by Camden Council

'It doesn’t make sense why people are still coming to us with problems,' say volunteers

17 July, 2017 — By William McLennan

Sasha Martin, left and Robert Kukaj, right, with resident Baha Noury

TWO men hailed as “local heroes” for voluntarily working around the clock to help their neighbours on the Chalcots estate have said they are being “blocked more and more” by Camden Council.

Sasha Martin and Robert Kukaj went into action when they saw the panic and confusion that was spreading among their fellow residents when the urgent evacuation was triggered at around 8pm on Friday June 23.

Since then they have spent the majority of their time helping people to secure decent accommodation and chase the daily allowances that have been pledged by the council for those forced out of their homes.

Council leader Georgia Gould praised them as “local heroes” and singled them out during a special Town Hall meeting on the evacuation last week.

But Mr Kukaj told the New Journal: “It’s frustrating that it seems like all the help that me and Sasha are offering, day by day we seem to be getting less access. We are blocked more and more.”

He said that he was surprised by the amount of people still coming to them for help, adding: “I knew that in the beginning it was a shambles because it was an unprecedented event. They were evacuating god knows how many people, but this is weeks on.”

Mr Martin said: “There are people [at the council] who have worked tirelessly to help us, but they are few and far between. It doesn’t make sense why people are still coming to us with problems with not receiving payments or extending their accommodation.”

They estimate that they have helped more than 150 families in the past three weeks.

Chnoor Noori Jafar and her husband, who is recovering from a recent heart attack, have moved between four different locations. They spent last weekend back in their home in Taplow, after being moved to an unsuitable basement flat in Kensington which had windows that were sealed shut and was a long commute to doctors appointments.

Mr Martin and Mr Kukaj helped to secure a hotel room for the couple on Monday.

Cllr Gould said she had spoken to Mr Kukaj “every couple of days”.

She added: “Sasha and Robert and loads of people from the community have stepped up and we really appreciate their help. Where people have taken it upon themselves to be community leaders in this difficult time, we have done everything that we can to support them. We are learning as we go along, so I’m sure it’s not always been perfect, but my absolute intention has been to be transparent and work alongside people.”

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