A dad-of-four is living alone on the 12th floor of a crumbling tower block after all of his neighbours were relocated to fancy new homes nearby.
The streets surrounding Saxelby House in Birmingham have been completely deserted after the area was cleared in preparation for bulldozers to demolish the site.
But one man still remains, Ezekiel Hermon, who endured a second isolated Christmas this year after staying alone on the 12th floor of the block for the past 12 months.
His home, where he’s lived for 25 years, is the only one occupied among empty balconies, smashed glass taped in place and an entrance stained by graffiti, Birmingham Live reports.
Ezekiel told Birmingham Live: “The buzzers don’t always work.”
As part of a council regeneration project, started two years ago and to the tune of £43m, Ezekiel should have been moved already.
The dad-of-four has been forced to watch as all 50 of his neighbours were rehoused from the Kimpton Close property, and neighbouring blocks are quickly emptying too.
While he spends his second festive season alone in the block he awaits a January court hearing and his former neighbours will be celebrating ‘comfortably’ in their new homes.
Birmingham City Council has offered Mr Hermon six properties, but they have either been one-bedroom flats – not suitable for his young children to stay over – or two beds in over 55s blocks, he claims.
The latest ‘unsuitable’ offer is another ‘retirement’ bungalow, with adaptations for disabilities including a wash room and lowered kitchen worktops, the 46-year-old says.
“I’ve lived on my own for over a year now. I’ve not been given any suitable accommodation to leave. I’ve just been left here, alone,” adds Ezekiel.
Jonathan Hipkiss/Birmingham Mail)
“It’s been horrible. I’ve been here for 25 years so I’m always used to people walking around, but it’s weird when no one’s here because of any little noise, you know that you’re the only one that’s here, so who else has come in?
“You just see everybody moving out, and you’re in here, alone. Not even alone for one month, not two months, but a year.
“There’s no way of even trying to get out because I’m being stopped from leaving.”
As the dad is being interviewed there is the sudden sound of something shattering from a neighbouring block – also set to be demolished.
He doesn’t flinch and calmly explains: “That’s the glass.
“You see now, this is what happened in my block. My children were walking in and that was happening. Once it’s been smashed it can drop on your head.”
Tape now keeps the smashed glass in place on the windows in his high rise, but only after multiple calls to the council, he claims.
Padlocks have been placed at the entrance to every floor, with every flat door also blocked off with steel security doors that resemble a bank safe.
One of the lift ‘rattles’, so he has to take the second up to the 11th floor – but even that has had its problems too.
“It was dark in here. This light went off, so it was completely black in here for about two weeks,” he explains.
“I had to use it, I had to bring my children in here because sometimes the other one won’t work.”
BirminghamLive senior reporter Stephanie Balloo wrote about a visit to his solitary home:
He shows me the boarded up landing door on the 12th floor which yobs smashed in a failed bid to enter.
As we step inside his two-bedroom flat, boxes are piled high with clothes. They have been sitting there, packed, since 2019 when he first prepared to leave alongside other residents.
Other items clutter the flat too, ‘rubbish’ which the council promised to take away for him once he moved out. He’s now facing a possession order in court to get him out of the flat.
But he is a family man who just wants a suitable property where his kids can stay over, he stresses.
His flat is covered with photos of his smiling children, whether in frames or taped to bedroom walls. They are the happy memories he holds dear as he spends the majority of his days completely isolated.
“I leave them up, it just reminds me of every little thing, like my children’s laughter,” he tells me as we walk into the ‘boys’ room’.
“I leave it a mess after they’ve been and after a while, I tidy it up. I just like to see that my children came in here.”
Mario and Monsters’ Inc blankets cover the two beds, with duvets underneath too. It’s the extra warmth needed in the freezing cold high rise, though Mr Hermon is also forced to blast his heating to keep them warm.
To stop the cold seeping in and keep the heat inside, he lines the windows with pegged-together curtains.
“My electric company got in touch because they wanted to know why such a high amount was being used,” he says.
“I used more electricity off peak in those nine hours than two family homes to keep them warm. Because once I turn off the heating , it just goes cold.
“There’s no heating coming up, so the floor is constantly freezing cold, even if I put it on high. “
He shows me the ‘girls’ room’, with two neatly made beds for his little daughters now aged eight and nine. When he first was told he would be moving, they were five and six, he adds.
“Where do you sleep?” I ask. Casually, he replies that sleeps on the sofa when his children come to stay.
“This is their home as well as my home, and I’m having to bring them somewhere where it’s considered dangerous, why do my children have to come in here and be subjected to that, when no other tenants’ children had to be put through this?
“There are tenants that have moved out of this block, rehoused comfortably, they will be having their third Christmas in their new home.
“Now I’ll be having my second Christmas alone. I never chose this to happen, this has been put on me.
“I’m trying to get out, I’m not blocking anyone, I’m trying to cooperate, but they’re not listening, there’s something in the way.”
Community activist Desmond Jaddoo has been helping with his court case ahead of January, with him offering advice and support.
He branded the actions of Birmingham City Council as “highly questionable”.
Mr Jaddoo told BirminghamLive: “The fact that he utilises both bedrooms and this property is of no consequence to Birmingham City Council and it is of no consequence in their view that they created this issue with the neglect of their housing stock with the need to demolish it.
“Their actions have led to this issue and it would appear that they are pushing Mr Hermon around as opposed to taking into account his current living circumstances which occupies a two bedroom flat.
“The council will talk about their policy however there is provision within their policy for them to use their discretion and it would appear that unfortunately this is not the case despite us raising this with the leader of the council as well.”
The council began rehousing residents from Saxelby House in April 2019, with all of the residents “successfully rehoused into alternative accommodation” except Mr Hermon.
In a latest update, Birmingham City Council told BirminghamLive: “Mr Hermon has been the last resident in Saxelby House since November 2020 and has not placed any bids for alternative accommodation since rehousing began.
“For this reason, management bids for alternative accommodation have been placed for him. Mr Hermon has been made six offers, three one-bedroom and three two-bedroom, all of which have been refused.
“Mr Hermon was served with a Notice of Seeking Possession and a court hearing date of January 21, 2022, has been set to gain vacant possession of the property.
“The latest offer made to Mr Hermon of a one-bedroom bungalow in one of his preferred areas has been made prior to the court hearing date.
“Mr Hermon attended the viewing of this bungalow on the September 27, 2021, and refused this as being too small.
“We are holding this offer for Mr Hermon until the court hearing as it is in line with the Allocation Policy as a reasonable offer of accommodation.”
This offer, the council added, will ‘remain open’ to Mr Hermon if the court decides to give a possession order on January 21 next year.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.