A mum-of-eight says her family are “tripping over each other” in a cramped three-bedroom council house after being on the waiting list for a bigger property for three years.
Cherie Forrest, 33, and her husband Darren moved into their home in Chelmsley Wood with their three children 10 years ago, but having since grown to a family-of-10, the Forrests say they are now “living on top of each other”.
The parents have even had to take a bedroom door off its hinges to fit enough beds in the house for their six daughters and two sons to sleep in.
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Cherie said: “We’ve been waiting for near enough four years now. It’s difficult when there’s 10 of you in one little house because you’re always tripping over each other.
“We’ve got my three youngest daughters sleeping in my room – the little one in the bed with me and the others in their own bed.
“My son has to have his own room because he’s autistic and he can’t have his brother touching his stuff. His room used to be a cupboard room but we had to turn it into a bedroom and take the door off to fit the bed in.
“The three older girls are in a room together but my oldest daughter who’s 16 has epilepsy so she needs her own space. Sometimes she’ll have seizures in the night and we have to call an ambulance out which then wakes the others up, which isn’t ideal.
“If the other two want to play in their bedroom it’s difficult because the older one is trying to do her coursework.
“Then my other son is sleeping downstairs with his dad. We have to sleep separately because there just isn’t enough room.
“It’s really difficult, we can’t fit everyone in. We’re all living on top of each other.”
Cherie and Darren moved to Pike Drive from a Bromford Support family unit, which they lived in for three years after Cherie’s parent’s home became too overcrowded.
The pair met when they were both working at the same Iceland supermarket and say they never planned to have a big family.
Cherie said: “It can be hectic but it’s nice watching them all grow up. We don’t plan on having any more children though.”
The mum says the cramped environment at home is now having a negative impact on their children, who are aged between one and 16.
“The kids’ school has even written letters to the council and said it’s having an impact on the kids,” she said.
“We’ve had a social worker write them a letter to say the conditions aren’t suitable – but we’re still waiting.”
Cherie said the crowded conditions are only made worse by problems with mould in the property and a leak from the upstairs bathroom which recently caused the ceiling underneath to collapse.
“The problems started when we had a new bathroom fitted in 2019,” she said. “The tiles were falling off the wall and we had water from the shower going into the wall and there was water shooting down the stairs. The floor boards were drenched.
“The first time we complained was before Covid but the pandemic meant we’ve been waiting for it to be fixed.
“You can smell the mould all around the house. It’s horrible in the living room, it’s all down the back of the sofa.
“People have been out to put mould paint on but it hasn’t done anything.”
Cherie said workmen have been out to fix a leaking pipe last week, but says she won’t let them repair the ceiling until a rotten beam underneath is replaced.
Solihull Community Housing, which manages Solihull Council’s housing stock, apologised to the Forrest family, but said it only had a very small number of four to six bedroom properties – meaning bigger homes rarely become available.
Fiona Hughes, chief executive, said: “We are very sorry that on this occasion our standards have fallen below what both we and our customers demand and expect.
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“We have been working at the property throughout the week and the issues with the roof have now been resolved and finished to our usual standards.
“We are sorry for any inconvenience this caused the family while the work took place.
“We are also aware of the overcrowding in this home. Unfortunately, the number of four to six bedroom properties we manage is very small indeed, and they become available very infrequently.
“We are sorry about this and appreciate the frustration it causes. We will continue to work with this family on exploring a range of alternative housing options that may suit their housing needs.”
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