Housing

New IKEA store displays will show off rooms inspired by homeless families

Forget visions of dream kitchens and bedrooms, IKEA and Shelter’s ‘Real Life Roomsets’ are showing off the reality of life in temporary accommodation

Ikea Shelter homelessness temporary accommodation display

The Real Life Roomsets offer a different look to IKEA's collection of rooms plucked from dream homes. Image: IKEA/Shelter

IKEA showrooms usually show off glimpses of what your dream home could look like – but a new team-up with housing charity Shelter is flipping the script to reveal the reality of life for homeless families.

‘Real Life Roomsets’ displays have been introduced to four IKEA stores across the country showing what life is like for people experiencing homelessness in cramped, damp and dangerous temporary accommodation.

The displays, which are based on real-life stories of people living near the London, Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol stores, are intended to draw attention to the terrible living conditions people are forced to endure due to the housing and cost of living crises.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “A grotty hostel or B&B is not a home, but this is the reality for too many families stuck in temporary accommodation. That’s why we’re working with IKEA to show the grim living situations that families who become homeless are having to face – from having no space for children to do homework or play, to having to share beds, to being moved miles away from schools and support networks.

“With rents at an all-time high and no end to the cost of living crisis in sight, we’re desperately worried that more people are going to become homeless this year. The solution to this crisis is simple and it’s staring the government in the face: we must build a new generation of good quality social housing that people can actually afford to live in.”

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Temporary accommodation can take many forms, including emergency hostels, B&Bs, one-room bedsits and cramped flats, and is offered to people experiencing homelessness until they can find a more permanent place to live.

Around 95,000 households in England live in temporary accommodation and it is particularly prevalent in London where 16 in every 1,000 people live in a makeshift home.

That includes Sam and her three children who provide inspiration for the display in the London store.

Ikea Shelter homelessness temporary accommodation display
Sam’s story of life in temporary accommodation is not unusual in London. Image: Ikea/Shelter

Sam moved into temporary accommodation after a seven-week spell living alone in her car while the children lived with her friend. The family were reunited in a temporary property which had black mould and a hole in the front door where the letter box should be.

The in-store display shows peeling wallpaper, stained walls and a bathroom located mere inches away from the kitchen.

Living in temporary accommodation can be particularly difficult on children. Research also released by Shelter this week showed over a fifth of homeless children have to move school multiple times as a result while half have missed days of school due to the living situation.

Claire, whose story provided the inspiration for the Birmingham story, also lived in temporary accommodation with her three children after being made homeless in December 2021 due to an abusive relationship.

The display shows the childrens’ sleeping spots crammed together just a short distance from a toilet.

Ikea Shelter homelessness temporary accommodation display
Claire said her temporary home was uninhabitable and smelled like “farm animals had lived there”. Image: Ikea/Shelter

The ground floor maisonette Claire was offered was “uninhabitable”, she said. “It was like farm animals had lived there. Paper was falling off the walls, there was dirt everywhere, broken cupboards, blood stains on mattresses, faeces stains on there. My two-year-old was crawling all over the dirty carpet. My ten-year-old son burst out crying.”

Channah moved to a cramped emergency B&B with her three daughters in May last year and the room has now been recreated in IKEA’s Warrington store.

Ikea Shelter homelessness temporary accommodation display
Channah’s living situation near Warrington had a big impact on her daughters’ education. Image: Ikea/Shelter

The family had been evicted in December 2021 and that led them sharing a space so small that one of her daughters had to revise for her GCSEs on the bathroom floor.

Channah said: “All I wanted was to have a space to call home where my children could study and achieve what they can. Our situation is greatly impacting their education and I feel powerless.”

The B&B room Kate, a qualified nurse and teacher, and her daughter shared has been reimagined in the Bristol store.

Ikea Shelter homelessness temporary accommodation display
The room Kate shared with her daughter near Bristol is not the typical Ikea display. Image: Ikea/Shelter

Kate lost her job at a children’s home during the pandemic and was forced out of her rental property following domestic abuse from a partner.

The pair briefly lived in a friend’s campervan and in a tent before moving into the room which had no cooking facilities, fridge or microwave.

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IKEA and Shelter announced a partnership last year, calling for 90,000 social homes to be built every year by 2030 to tackle the housing emergency.

Peter Jelkeby, IKEA UK & Ireland’s country retail manager and chief sustainability officer, said: “The focus on building ‘affordable’ homes rather than social housing is a distraction from finding a real solution to the housing emergency, which currently relies on the unsuitable provision of temporary accommodation where families are being forced to live in uninhabitable and unacceptable conditions. 

“At IKEA, we believe that everyone deserves a place to call home, which is why we’re so proud to partner with Shelter in demanding for long-term change, whilst also helping those directly affected by the housing emergency in our local communities.”

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