Father-of-four has been living alone in derelict tower block for six months after council 'fails to rehouse him'

Rebecca Speare-Cole
·5 min read
Ezekiel Hermon, 46, from Birmingham. (SWNS)
Ezekiel Hermon is the only remaining resident of Saxelby House, in Druids Heath, Birmingham. (SWNS)

A father-of-four has been living alone in a derelict tower block for six months after the local council 'failed' to find suitable alternate accommodation.

Ezekiel Hermon, 46, has been the only remaining resident of Saxelby House, in Druids Heath, Birmingham, since November after all the other residents were rehoused to make way for a £43 million development.

Hermon’s two girls, aged seven and eight, and two boys, aged 12 and 14, also live with him part-time as they move between his home and his ex-partner's property five miles away.

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The former railway worker, who currently pays £94 a week for the two-bedroom apartment on the 11th floor of the 12-floor tower block, has to sleep on the sofa when his children come to stay.

The building's 100 other residents were moved into new accommodations when the tower was earmarked for demolition to make place for a £43 million housing development.

Saxelby House flats in Druids Heath. (SWNS)
Saxelby House is set to be demolished to make way for a £43 million development. (SWNS)

But Hermon said he has not received any suitable offers for alternative housing from Birmingham City Council.

He said he had only been offered one-bedroom retirement flats in high-rise tower blocks but needed more space in order for his four children to stay.

The dispute has been ongoing for two years and is now being taken to court.

In the meantime, Hermon said that living alone in the deserted building had left him feeling "mentally imprisoned" and unable to sleep.

He described the building, where he has lived for 25 years, as a “giant prison”.

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The 46-year-old added that he is unable to sleep due to people breaking in at night and fears over a Grenfell Tower-like fire.

"It's absolutely terrible in here. It's horrible. It's cold and damp,” he said. "It's a decaying place with mould outside my flat, the doors and floors are dirty, and it's been falling apart for years.”

"I feel frustration, loneliness and that I'm mentally imprisoned here," Hermon said. "It's not like I want to stay, I'm desperate to leave but need the right place to go.

"I feel trapped because all I've been offered by the council is not suitable. The cost of keeping me here must be huge."

Hermon, 46, has been living alone in the tower block for six months. (SWNS)
Hermon, 46, has been living alone in the tower block for six months. (SWNS)

Hermon, who is currently unemployed, explained that the housing officer had only offered high-rise or one-bedroom apartments because he lives on his own.

"I applied for a two-bed not in a high-rise because I've lived in this one since 1996 and have had enough of it like the rest of the residents.

"The point of demolishing this one is that people don't want to live in them anymore.

"I just wanted a low-rise two-bedroom flat or maisonette, it wasn't much to ask, because I have got four children and wanted to keep access to them.”

Hermon said that he has been told by the council to invest in an inflatable mattress so that his children could sleep on the floor.

"The thought of my children coming over and me putting them on the floor was one of the things that made me break down," he said.

Saxelby House has grown derelict. (SWNS)
Saxelby House has grown derelict. (SWNS)

"It was devastating. By that time I hadn't seen them for three months because of the lockdown and the bubble hadn't come in yet. I was missing them so much.”

"My children can't really stay here anymore because I don't feel it's safe,” he added. 

"Thinking of Grenfell keeps me up at night. The only fire exit is the stairs so if there was a fire below I couldn't get out and there'd be no one to raise the alarm.

Birmingham City Council said it had been trying to find a suitable home for Hermon since April 2019, when rehousing from his block began.

Broken windows at Saxelby House. (SWNS)
Broken windows at Saxelby House. (SWNS)

A spokesman for the local authority said that it has had to take the matter to court since Hermon has rejected alternative accommodation offers.

"Mr Hermon in line with all the other tenants was offered alternative accommodation according to our Housing Allocation Scheme,” they said.

“To date Mr Hermon has received four offers of alternative accommodation that consisted of one and two-bedroom properties which have all sadly been refused.

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"Mr Hermon's case has been looked at by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman who supported the council in trying to find him alternative accommodation.

"The council regularly inspects Saxelby House to ensure empty flats are secured and the block remains safe.

"As we have not been able to secure alternative accommodation we have reluctantly had to take his case to court.

"We sympathise with the impact this is having on Mr Hermon's wellbeing and we will continue to support him and work with him to find alternative accommodation."

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