Wandsworth’s homeless families are having to put up with “prison-like” conditions in temporary accommodation, according to one resident.

Hannah Stanislaus has lived in Nightingale Square, Balham, for two years, and faces the prospect of another two, despite being told she would have been given a permanent home by now.

She said the worst thing she has come across in her time there so far was a partially sighted woman accidentally eating mouse droppings, because the rodents had found their way into the cupboards where she kept her plates.

“It breaks my heart,” Hannah said. “How can they let that happen?”

She gave a long list of problems with Nightingale Square: broken furniture in the flats, smashed windows – hers has been broken for a year –  black mould, damp, and infestations of insects, mice, and spiders, among many other issues.

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Hannah said: “The living conditions are closer to a prison. I call it Nightingale Square Prison.”

A survivor of domestic violence, Hannah spent seven months in a women’s refuge, before being moved between two hotels, then into Nightingale Square.

She suffers from several mental health conditions, and lives in the small flat with her three-year-old daughter Lucy.

She said: “It’s exhausting, because we have to share a bedroom.

“When I have a mental health crisis, or Lucy has a meltdown, there’s nowhere to go.

“My mum lived there as a small child 50 years ago, and the conditions haven’t changed.

“It makes me think about my grandchildren. Are they going to have to live here with the same problems?”

A Wandsworth Council spokesman said that £3m has been spent upgrading Nightingale Square so that almost all flats are now self-contained with their own kitchen and bathroom.

“Last year, £60,000 was spent on further repairs and upgrades, and we have a comprehensive ongoing programme of work there," he added.

“Twelve flats based in the old convent building do share bathrooms, because the building’s listed status made it more difficult to convert.

“The average length of stay across all our hostels is just under two years – typical for an inner-London borough.

“Some stays are shorter and a few are longer. Longer stays are likely to be families awaiting a larger property."

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Hannah said there are 92 families in the square, split between four blocks, each with very little space and often with children sleeping in the living areas – if they are not sharing a room with their parent(s).

She said there are broken security doors, and the blocks all have the same access code.

When getting back to the square at night, there is little light outside.

Some people there say they are survivors of physical or sexual abuse and violence, and Hannah said they do not feel safe.

She added: “Mentally, it’s destroyed me, living there. My home is not a home. It’s cramped; there’s nowhere for Lucy to play.

“It makes me sick.”

A heavily pregnant woman has to climb 34 stairs to get to a bathroom: Hannah said there are four shared by 12 flats in her block.

The council spokesman said that recent inspections of the building showed "no evidence of major systemic problems such as damp."

“However, we will continue to thoroughly investigate this issue and will be carrying out extensive ‘conditions and occupancy checks’ which will get to the root of any problems there may be," he said.

“We are sometimes notified of infestations, and in all cases they have been promptly dealt with. 

“We have on-site caretakers who carry out repairs – if a problem such as a broken window or broken lock is reported to us, it will be repaired.

“As part of our longer-term investigation into conditions at Nightingale Square, we will consider the request for different door codes and more outside lights – although we will need to ensure outdoor lights are not so numerous and bright that they cause a nuisance to residents.”

A petition set up by Nightingale Square residents can be found here.