Ice-cold winds blow a fluttering plastic bag over the uneven pavement. It sounds like another person’s feet are approaching, but a quick check confirms that no one is there.
Not a soul walks the streets to break the eerie silence of this cul-de-sac from Druids Heath, defined only by the towering high-rises that are to be torn down by bulldozers.
While stumbling on a loose plate, the disused Saxelby House comes into view – pigeons fluttering on empty balconies, smashed glass wallpaper in place and an entrance stained with graffiti.
Read more: Last resident of the doomed Druids Heath tower block faces lawsuit
Now, just over two years into the effort to rehous tenants ahead of the £ 43 million regeneration, this unsuitable, dilapidated block should be empty.
But there is a father who can not leave, has been completely alone in the block for over 12 months and is facing another isolated Christmas.
“The bums don’t always work,” explains a frustrated Ezekiel Hermon, who has been coming out of his home for 25 years to lock me inside.
Father-of-four has been forced to watch as all 50 of his neighbors were rehoused from the Kimpton Close property, and neighboring blocks are also being emptied quickly.
While he has to spend his second Christmas time alone in the block, awaiting a court hearing in January, his former neighbors will celebrate ‘comfortably’ in their new home.
Birmingham City Council has offered Mr Hermon six properties, but they have either been one-bedroom apartments – not suitable for his young children to stay overnight – or two beds in over 55 blocks, he claims.
The latest ‘unsuitable’ offer is another ‘retirement bungalow’ with handicap adaptations, including a laundry room and lowered kitchen worktops, the 46-year-old says.
“I have lived alone for over a year now. I have not been given any suitable accommodation to leave. I have just been left here alone,” Ezekiel adds.
“It’s been awful. I’ve been here for 25 years, so I’m always used to people walking around, but it’s weird when no one’s here because of a little noise, you know you’re the only one , who’s here, so who else has come in?
“You just see everyone move out and you’re in here, alone. Not even alone for a month, not two months, but a year.
“There’s no way to try to get out because I’m being prevented from leaving.”
As we are on our way in, I stop at the sudden sound of something shattering from a neighboring block – also ready to be torn down.
He does not shy away and calmly explains: “It’s the glass.
“You see now, that’s what happened in my block. My kids went in and it happened. Once it’s been smashed, it can fall on your head.”
Tape now holds the smashed glass in place on the windows of his high-rise, but only after several calls to the council, he claims.
Padlocks are located at the entrance to each floor, and each flat door is also locked off with steel security doors that look like a safe deposit box.
One lift ‘rattles’, so we take the other up on the 11th floor – but even that has also had its problems.
“It was dark in here. This light went out, so it was completely black in here for about two weeks,” he explains.
“I had to use it, I had to bring my kids in here, because sometimes the other one won’t work.”
He shows me the decorated floor door on the 12th floor, which yobs smashed in an unsuccessful attempt to enter.
As we enter his one-bedroom apartment, the boxes are stacked high with clothes. They have been sitting there, packed together, since 2019, when he first prepared to leave with other residents.
Other things also clutter the apartment, “garbage” that the municipality promised to take away for him when he moved out. He now faces a possession order in court to get him out of the apartment.
But he is a family man who just wants a suitable property where his children can live, he emphasizes.
His apartment is covered in pictures of his smiling children, whether it is in frames or wallpaper for bedroom walls. These are the happy memories he cares about as he spends most of his days completely isolated.
“I let them lie, it just reminds me of every little thing, like my kids ‘laughter,” he tells me as we enter the’ boys ‘room’.
“I let it mess up after they’ve been, and after a while I clean up. I just like to see my kids come in here.”
Mario and Monsters’ Inc rugs cover the two beds, with duvets underneath. That’s the extra heat needed in the icy cold high-rise, though Mr Hermon is also forced to blow up his heating to keep them warm.
To prevent the cold from seeping in and keeping the heat inside, he lines the windows with cohesive curtains.
“My electricity company contacted me because they wanted to know why such a large amount was being spent,” he says.
“I used more power outside the peak for the nine hours than two family houses to keep them warm. Because once I turn off the heat, it just gets cold.
“There is no heat, so the floor is constantly freezing cold, even if I set it high.”
He shows me the ‘girl’ room ‘with two nicely made beds for his little daughters of now eight and nine years. When he was first told he wanted to move, they were five and six, he adds.
“Where do you sleep?” I’m asking. Coincidentally, he replies that sleeping on the couch when his kids come to stay.
“This is their home as well as my home, and I have to bring them to a place where it is considered dangerous, why should my children come in here and be exposed to it when no other tenants’ children were to be placed through this?
“There are tenants who have moved out of this block, rehoused comfortably, they have to hold their third Christmas in their new home.
“Now I have to hold my second Christmas alone. I have never chosen this to happen, it has been put on me.
“I try to get out, I’m not blocking anyone, I’m trying to cooperate, but they are not listening, there is something in the way.”
Community activist Desmond Jaddoo has helped with his trial ahead of January, where he has provided advice and support.
He branded the actions of Birmingham City Council as “very dubious”.
Sir. Jaddoo told BirminghamLive: “The fact that he uses both bedrooms and this property is irrelevant to Birmingham City Council and it does not matter in their view that they created this problem of neglecting their housing stock with the need to tear it down. that.
“Their actions have led to this problem, and it seems that they are pushing Mr Hermon around instead of taking into account his current living conditions, which occupy a two – room apartment.
“The Council will talk about their policy, but there are provisions in their policy so that they can use their discretion, and it seems that this is unfortunately not the case, although we have also raised this with the leader of the Council. . “
What has the Birmingham City Council said?
The council began rehousing residents from Saxelby House in April 2019, with all residents “successfully rehoused for alternative housing” except Mr. Hermon.
In a recent update, Birmingham City Council told BirminghamLive: “Mr Hermon has been the last occupant of Saxelby House since November 2020 and has not bid on alternative housing since the rehousing began.
“For this reason, management bids have been made for alternative housing for him. Hermon has received six offers, three one-bedroom and three two-bedroom, all of which have been rejected.
“Mr. Hermon was served with a notice of seeking possession, and a court date of January 21, 2022, has been set to obtain vacant possession of the property.
“The latest offer to Mr Hermon for a one-bedroom bungalow in one of his favorite areas has been made before the hearing.
“Mr Hermon attended the viewing of this bungalow on September 27, 2021, and denied that this was too small.
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“We will keep this offer to Mr Hermon until the hearing, as it is in line with the allocation policy as a reasonable offer of accommodation.”
This offer, the council added, will “remain open” to Mr Hermon if the court decides to grant a possession order on January 21 next year.
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