I am not an investigative journalist. I am a rabbi. And staying in my home – fast asleep, thankfully, at 6 in the morning – are a mother and her three children (one part-time at a nursery, one in a primary school and one who started secondary school last month). They are members of my congregation. She fled her marital home at the end of July and found safety in a refuge. It was some distance from her children’s schools (three different locations). She and they have spent hours and hours in the last six weeks using public transport (most of the time without even having the benefit of subsidised travel because there was a ‘problem’ issuing bus passes).


The refuge in which they had lived for twelve weeks closed last week. She and her children were promised a place in another refuge. She was told to pack her belongings, which would be transported to the new refuge, taking just enough for two days and nights, after which she and her children would be moved into the new refuge.


This is the second of those nights that these four displaced souls were told to ‘find someone to stay with’. Yesterday she was advised that the new refuge would not be available as promised, and that there was an ‘80% chance’ that it would be ready for her and her children in three days’ time. So they’re in my house now, and will be for another three nights. With only a small percentage of their few possessions – she doesn’t even know where the rest of her belongings are right now.


Like I said, I am a rabbi. I am responding to the prophet Isaiah’s injunction to ‘share your food with the hungry, and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter;
when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood.’ (Isaiah 58:7) It is someone else’s job to look into how and why this happened, to find out the roles of Hightown Housing Association, Safer Places and Hertfordshire County Council in this human tragedy. Maybe that job starts here. This newspaper article, from July 2017, includes this: “Hightown is committed to working closely with SAHWR, Herts county council, and Safer Places to ensure a smooth transition over the coming months and is prepared to be flexible regarding the final date.”


If that is the case, why are four residents of that refuge now in my house, with eighty per cent of their possessions in an unknown location, and facing an uncertain future? Now there’s something for an investigative journalist to look into…