A Glasgow hotel housing vulnerable homeless people is being run “like an open prison” while charging £1,400 a month for cramped and rundown rooms without adequate cooking or washing facilities, it has been alleged.
The Queens Park hotel is contracted by Glasgow City Council to provide homeless accommodation. With 58 rooms – charged at £350 per week – it is capable of making more than one million pounds per year.
However, allegedly serious concerns about its management are to be raised at a meeting called by the community council on Wednesday, 22 June, with local and national politicians and council officials expected to be represented.
Homeless advocates say more support is needed at the hotel for vulnerable people struggling with mental health and addictions. For example, reception staff do not need to be specially trained and there has been at least one death at the hotel in the last couple of years.
Neighbours say while they are concerned for people’s welfare, it is also causing problems in the community. Opposition politicians are calling for tougher action against the hotel’s owners.
Glasgow City Council said it was “committed” to ending the use of B&Bs as homeless accommodation, while the Scottish Government said it was “concerned” by the reports.
Wednesday’s meeting follows concerns raised by Hannah Salome, who has been staying at the Queens Park hotel since she made a homeless application on 7 April.
She has been there for more than ten weeks despite new rules, which mean B&B accommodation is only permitted for seven days.
A freedom of information request shared with The Ferret shows that from 30 September 2021 to 15 May 2022, people stayed at the Queens Park Hotel for more than seven days on 221 occasions – 70 percent of the total stays. These stays are not permitted under Scottish housing law.
Salome has now been offered alternative temporary accommodation and expects to move in a few weeks.
On arrival she claims she was assigned a dilapidated room with a bed, two upright chairs, a chest of drawers in poor condition, a microwave and a kettle. Her suitcases and other belongings have to be piled against the wall, leaving her with little space.
The carpet was worn and dirty and the window frame rotting.
Breakfast — provided in a brown paper bag every morning — is a 22g packet of cereal, small cartons of long life milk and orange juice, a disposable cup with a teabag or coffee sachet and a biscuit.
Salome’s housing benefit covers just over £325 per week and she contributes an additional £22 per week for heating and hot water and £3.70 for breakfast from her weekly £77 Universal Credit payment.
A basic lunch – sandwich, biscuit, fruit, crisps and a small carton of apple juice – is provided by a charity. But an evening meal, previously available during Covid-19, was cancelled in April.
Rules at the Queen’s Park hotel include a midnight curfew, after which time residents may not be allowed entry. The hotel operates a “no visitors” policy and advises that residents could face eviction if they knock on other guests’ doors.
Though many guests are addicted to drugs and alcohol, the use of any substances on the premises is strictly forbidden.
They must not leave milk or other food stuff on their window sills. Neighbours have complained, saying it is both unhygienic and attracts birds and other pests. But fridges are not provided in the rooms.
Salome said guests were under extreme stress – she claims to have witnessed an alarming and violent argument. Hotel staff – who are not trained support workers – are not able to offer adequate help, she and others say.
She told The Ferret: “From the start I thought this was wholly inappropriate accommodation for homeless people.
“I started to meet others on the stairwell and going in and out. There are few people like myself who don’t have health or addiction problems but mostly it’s rammed full of vulnerable people. It’s horrendous.”
Though she coped well in the first few weeks, the situation started to take a toll on her emotional and mental wellbeing after a few weeks.
“It was really depressing,” she said. “But this is really not about my situation – I am resourceful and know where to get help.
“I want others to know that this a serious problem – that although it goes back a long way – is still not being dealt with. I feel that this place is unsafe.
“Given how traumatised people are it seems dangerous on every level and so in terms of the decision to accommodate people there, irresponsibility doesn’t cover it.
“The food situation alone is a cause for concern. And I appreciate that staff are stressed out and under pressure but it’s clear that they are not qualified to deal with people in difficult situations.”
Neighbours living near the hotel, who will raise their concerns at the public meeting, insisted they were concerned for residents as well as the impact of the hotel on their community.
One shared videos of a staff member who appeared to be physically preventing guests gaining entry. They claimed the “heavy handed approach” was not appropriate.
“I started noticing the anti-social behaviour but now I’m also concerned about people’s welfare,” they added. “People deserve support and adequate facilities – and those should be state of the art given the money.
“We’ve been trying to highlight these issues and have them taken seriously for the good of the community and for people staying in the hotel.”
Other hotels run by Harhill Limited – which is registered to Mohammad Ikram Hussain – include the St Enoch Hotel in the city centre. It is open to the public as well as housing homeless people and has several one star reviews from 2019 on Tripadvisor.
The group also runs the Hillhead and Chez Nous guest houses in Glasgow’s west end, which also provide homeless accommodation.
Adam Hussain and Mukal Bizwas, former directors of Hill Glasgow Ltd, were also named as representatives of Harhill Limited in a recent employment tribunal. The two men are directors of several other businesses.
Hill Glasgow Ltd was folded in June 2021. It came three months after a maintenance manager sacked for raising concerns about asbestos at Glasgow’s St Enoch hotel was awarded more than £23,000 by a tribunal. After the company was dissolved, however, it was not liable for making the payment.
Last month The Ferret reported that councils across Scotland paid private firms providing homeless accommodation over £300million in five years. Glasgow City Council paid out more than £26m from April 2017 until January 2022.
Concerns about the use of the Queen’s Park hotel as homeless accommodation are longstanding. In 2009 Glasgow City Council stopped placing people in the hotel due to complaints. It was then owned by the McKeever Group which went into administration.
In 2011 the hotel was refurbished by new owners and in 2013 the city council started using it as homeless accommodation again.
Shelter Scotland assistant director, Gordon MacRae, said the only solution was to build more social homes.
“There is an over reliance on low quality temporary accommodation, which people can be stuck in for months or, in some cases, years,” he added.
“Conditions are often truly miserable and can cause serious long term harm to those forced to endure them for any length of time.
“On top of that, it’s expensive with local authorities pouring away vast sums to private providers, some of whom are offering a service which is beyond substandard.”
Paul Sweeney MSP said he had been “horrified” to hear about incidents raised with him by local residents in the area.
“Those who have fallen on hard times need somewhere to go in an emergency, but that cannot be done at the expense of those who live nearby to emergency accommodation of this kind,” he added.
“I will continue to call for tougher action against the owners of the hotel and reiterate the point that any organisation in receipt of public money should be held to the highest of standards. I do not believe that is the case in this instance.”
A spokesperson for Glasgow City Council confirmed that the complaints made by Salome are being investigated.
It said it worked with the owners of hotels and B&Bs “to ensure that the accommodation is of an acceptable standard”. “Where these standards are not met we expect the owners to put remedial actions in place,” they added.
“The council remains committed to ending the use of bed and breakfast accommodation and is engaging with a range of partners to bring forward proposals to continue to reduce our use of these establishments.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We are concerned at these reports. Temporary accommodation can offer an important emergency safety net for anyone who finds themselves homeless, but it should be a purely temporary measure.”
The Scottish Housing Regulator expects local authorities to be compliant with housing law, they added.
Harhill Limited did not respond to requests for comment.
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Cover image by Angela Catlin