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Housing

Homeless man who built wooden house on pavement: ‘People understand I’m just in a bad situation’

The former London Underground worker says he faced a choice between “sleeping behind a bin or building my own house”.

A man who built himself an elaborate wooden house on a London pavement says he wanted to make it look good so he didn’t disturb people in the local area.

The suit-wearing former London Underground worker, who gave his name as Lukas K, told The Big Issue: “I had nowhere to live, so it was a choice between sleeping behind a bin or building myself a house.”

His pavement new-build has led to the council promising to offer him accommodation – a fact Lukas only discovered after reading The Big Issue’s previous story on his house.

Sporting a numbered, locking front door and a fence, the house sits on a pavement in London’s poorest borough, where there is a 21,000-strong council house waiting list.

The house, made of wood, features a lockable front door and a fence. Image: Greg Barradale

It’s been standing for nearly a week, and has attracted a mass of online attention.

Lukas built it from a wardrobe that was being thrown away, borrowing a hammer and some nails from a DIY shop. Once he got to work, it took him two days over the weekend to complete.

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On the inside, palettes and wood line the floor to stop the floor getting wet when it rains.

“I just wanted to make it look good to people so that I don’t disturb people,” he said.

While he’s constantly making improvements to the house, and making his mark on the area, Lukas said the house wasn’t designed to make a point about the housing crisis. It’s simply out of necessity.

It’s a new version of a previous shack that had been knocked down by the council. 

“After the council knocked it down, I still needed somewhere to live,” he said. “So this time, I built a sturdy house with a lock and a door made out of wood that people can’t break into.”

Despite working on the underground, Lukas said a combination of mental health issues and substance problems led to him ending up in prison, and then onto the streets.

“I ended up making a lot of mistakes in my life, but I’m just trying to change my life,” he said.

He said he’s found kindness from local residents, who have been bringing him food, water – and even the parrot that sits atop the house.

“People understand that I am just in a bad situation and just want to help,” he said

“That shows why this area is the best area in London – people here understand what hardship is like and are willing to help someone else going through hardship.

“I would just love for this to be an inspiration for other people who have been through desperate times in life.”

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A Tower Hamlets Council spokesperson said on Thursday: “We are aware of this person and their situation and are currently working on an accommodation plan for them.

“We do not intend to clear the structure until we can make an offer of accommodation, which we aim to do tomorrow (Friday) and we hope that the individual will accept.”

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