Housing

Homeless families are being moved out of Birmingham hotels ahead of the Commonwealth Games

Birmingham City Council confirmed families will be temporarily moved to Coventry but a whistleblower has warned more could be shunted out of the city during the games.

Commonwealth Games Birmingha

The Commonwealth Games is set to kick off in Birmingham this week but some families have been kicked out of the city to make way for the games. Image: Birmingham City Council / Flickr

Homeless families living in temporary accommodation are being moved out of Birmingham as the city prepares to host the Commonwealth Games this week.

Birmingham City Council confirmed that around 20 families will be moved 20 miles outside the city to Coventry for the duration of the games, which are due to begin on Thursday.

But a social worker who blew the whistle on the council’s plans warned that significantly more could be forced out of city centre hotels to make way for the spectators and athletes during the 12-day event.

“I think that we as a city seem to be absolving ourselves from the responsibility to care for some of the most vulnerable families,” said Eddie O’Hara, an independent social worker who also runs charity All Birmingham’s Children.

“It’s a time when the Commonwealth family is coming to the city. And it seems that when we are welcoming people from all over the world, we’re placing some of our children and our families outside. Many of these children and families access certain support here and that’s not going to be available to them. 

“I think it does tarnish the games really. The indifference that sometimes the people in power seem to have for the most powerless I think is quite shocking. It’s almost like they don’t really care yet if it was them, their family, their children they’d be the first up in arms over it.”

A Birmingham City Council spokesperson told The Big Issue it has been in discussions with hotel owners in recent months to ensure most families living in temporary accommodation can remain in place during the games. But a council spokesperson confirmed that “fewer than 20 families” have been moved to Coventry for the duration of the games due to bookings at hotels.

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“In the case of when a hotel is fully booked we have agreed with them to move families to alternative hotels for the duration of the games,” the spokesperson said. “We have ensured that they are provided with alternative arrangements including additional meals and support. In total this relates to fewer than 20 families being moved to Coventry.

“However, in recognition of the disruption and uncertainty that this will have on the families affected we have been liaising with them individually. We are grateful to the hotels concerned for working with us to provide alternative accommodation and extra support during this very busy period.”

O’Hara told The Big Issue that he believed more than 20 families were being moved out of the city during the games, calling the council’s figure “grossly underestimated”.

He added that he was aware of a family who had also been placed in Dudley – around 10 miles away from Birmingham city centre.

O’Hara also alleged that some families were only given 24 hours’ notice of the move while others were uprooted before the end of school term.

“We have considerable purchasing power when we seek accommodation in hotels and we need to ensure that this never happens again because I have no doubt that wherever the Commonwealth Games are over the hotels will come cap in hand asking for the council to fill their empty rooms again,” added O’Hara.

“Bimingham does have some large-scale sport events and I’m sure we will have more to come. I hope that, in future, whatever arrangements are put in place with hotels, this won’t happen again.”

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