Windrush pensioner faces homelessness at 89 as Home Office ‘cannot verify identity’

Windrush pensioner faces homelessness at 89 as Home Office ‘cannot verify identity’

An 89-year-old woman from the Windrush generation is facing homelessness because the Home Office says it cannot verify her identity.

Thelma Campbell has been asked to leave the supported housing estate she has lived in for over two decades in Tottenham, north London, as residents are being evicted following a slew of structural issues.

Born in Jamaica, the former factory worker moved to Britain as part of the Windrush mass migration in 1960 – living, working and raising her children in this country.

‘We’ve been treated differently because we are Black,’ says Thelma Campbell (Nadine White/The Independent)

However, despite her long-term residence in the borough and receipt of a state pension, Haringey Council is demanding to see Ms Campbell’s British passport as proof of British citizenship, which she doesn’t have, before agreeing to rehouse her. The Home Office is working on the case with the authority but in the meantime, Ms Campbell has been left in limbo.

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“I lived in this property for 23 years and when I moved in they didn’t ask for my passport,” she told The Independent. “Two of us – another lady with Alzheimer’s and I – as Black people said we want to stay in Haringey because all our lives are here since we landed. We’ve been treated differently because we are Black, and the first thing she [a council representative] is asking me is for a passport.”

At its heart, the Windrush scandal was brought about by the government’s “hostile environment” policies which demand that people provide documents, such as passports, to access benefits such as housing. Like Ms Campbell, thousands of Caribbean-born British citizens affected by the scandal were asked to provide documents they didn’t have to hand.

The threat of impending homelessness is weighing heavily on the 89 year-old (Nadine White/The Independent)

The Local Government Association says that several forms of ID are acceptable in cases like this, including a passport, driver’s licence and birth certificate. Unfortunately, Ms Campbell has been unable to find her passport, while the pension book, Freedom Pass and UK-born son’s 1962 birth certificate were not accepted by the council as proof of her identity. Her family is now concerned about the stress this is causing.

“I wasn’t eating. I was crying and couldn’t sleep,” Ms Campbell said. “When my son came down, he said to me, ‘Mum, you’re wasting away’.”

Ms Campbell has been told she will need to vacate her property, where she has lived since 2003, in July and advised that alternative residence is available in south London. However, she is not keen to move to the other side of London, where she has no ties.

Like many of the Windrush generation, Thelma Campbell has been asked to provide documents she does not have (PA)

Ms Campbell’s son Errol wrote in a letter of complaint to the council: “I am of the firm belief that if my mother leaves this area, her mental health will deteriorate rapidly.

“She knows all the shopkeepers and characters in the area and everyone greets her as she goes by or she stops and has a chat with them. As an old woman on her own, this is a massive help to her mental health and helps with bouts of loneliness she is now feeling with the estate emptying out.

“I cannot see her having the strength at her age to build these relationships if she had to move to an area she does not know.”

Ms Campbell observed her 89th birthday and the Windrush Day anniversary just last week but felt unable to celebrate the former.

“When they find me somewhere to live, I’ll celebrate,” she said. “We’ve been through a hard time when we come here to build this country and to know how they treat us Windrush people… like we’re not entitled. I paid my dues here like anybody else.”

A Haringey Council spokesperson said: “The council is obliged by government rules to ensure that any person seeking housing support is eligible for assistance. Despite our best efforts, the Home Office has been unable to verify Ms Campbell’s status.

“We have also been in contact with Ms Campbell’s support worker to make a referral to the Windrush Support Unit and will continue to work tirelessly to resolve her immigration status.”

The Home Office confirmed that it is in touch with Ms Campbell’s family and is trying to resolve the matter.