1am this morning I start to receive emails and messages, ping after ping, from students saying they have no water in their showers or kitchens at Pure City.
One student asks if I can come visit. Knowing what these students have gone through over the past few months, the ongoing problems, and few willing to listen and care, I know within myself that I’m not going to say no.
So I arrive at midday. Walking up to the building I see flashing blue lights – the fire brigade. Several students are waiting in the reception area. There’s no security or reception staff around to sign me in. The barriers are wide open but we wait.
Eventually security come and tell me to just go through and sign in later as they are busy.
Before I arrived around 5am, water came back for some students however it is cold. Too cold to shower. Some wait for it to be fixed so that they can get ready and go out and do what they need to do on this Sunday but they don’t know how long it will take.
I ask students what Pure said last night about water going out and the now cold water. They were told it was due to “scheduled maintenance works”. This makes no sense- why would maintenance works happen so late at night? And why is there now the fire brigade running in and around the building today?
More students come to reception and some report water coming through into their rooms. They were told by Pure that they’re waiting for maintenance to come and fix it. I went to some of the rooms.
On the way out, I hear the sound of water travelling. I opened a cupboard door to find to water gushing through:
Back at reception, the fire alarm’s ringing on and off intermittently. We see students who tell us they’re going to the gym to shower. The lifts aren’t working either – one student living on the 11th floor reached the top of the stairs but then had no water to drink. The fire brigade were still running around the building making residents feel like something was wrong.
Pure staff had many students asking what was going on. I took one to the side and explained: “the reason students are so upset and coming down to report, is because since 12am last night, Pure have not acknowledged and communicated with them on what is happening. I know you are working on it but please just email students and tell them that.” He agreed, went to the reception desk, but a communication did not gone out to students.
Around 1.30pm students from one building start coming down saying their electricity went out.
Some students took me to their rooms. It was dark, dismal and damp. I helped one girl who had been given towels and a bucket, wipe up her floor. It was depressing- we shouldn’t have to be doing this- especially on a Sunday after. Here is a video of her room.
Another student waiting outside was getting extremely frustrated and upset. She asked when the problems were going to end. Every weekend there’s another problem with Pure City. And it seems like there’s no-one around who even cares.
It was the hardest thing. I thought she was going to break down and I didn’t have any answers for her. I could not fix the issues. We were all helpless.
I saw students helping one another. Those who were in the building with electricity offered their kitchens to those who didn’t. That was heart-warming and inspiring to watch. And I reminded students not to let this or the other issues encountered at Pure ruin their time. And that using their voice is a actually a positive thing to help themselves in the future and others that will come to Pure too.
New-builds will have issues and leaks. But what is frustrating is the lack of communication and care. Not a single email went out to these students despite water going out at midnight. The front desk had no-one there at points where students came down to report issues. Every hour they say “should be fixed in one hour”. It’s been 17hours.
Lack of communication also meant there are students who will return after the weekend to find water all over their rooms and their stuff potentially ruined with no warning.
We hear a lot about how water and electricity might go out for a few hours in student accommodation but unless you’re there, you don’t always realise how much it can interrupt daily life. These students couldn’t shower, wash, or cook. The heating, wifi, freezers weren’t working. And when there are these consistent problems over periods of months. People get fed up and exhausted- especially when they pay so much to avoid this disruption. Today seemed to be the last straw for many students – I could feel that.
One student we saw today packed up and moved out. He had planned to move out before and I knew he had been searching for someone to take his place for some time. It was saddening to know he’d come here wanting to make this his home but over time faced too many issues with heating, being locked out etc. I’d spoken to him several times before today and I could see in his eyes that he had had enough. He told me he felt bad that another person had to come live their to replace him, told us to keep up the campaign work, and then left.
I started to wonder why I had ended up there on a Sunday. I couldn’t fix the problems, I’m not plumber and have no control over Pure’s organisation. I’ve started to realise the Pure City campaign has become something these students have come to trust to try to sort things out and make it better after losing trust in Pure. There was no-one there to tell them it was ok. No-one there to tell them where to get water, or heat up their food.
Being with the students today, seeing how they feel and knowing that this is how it is here, makes it clear to me that launching the campaign and in recent times more publicly has been the right thing to do.
And I’m seeing students stand up for themselves and use their voice. Today they initiated leaving reviews on the Pure City Facebook page. I was going to leave this until later in the campaign, but if this is their prerogative- they should and I will support them in doing so. I’ve thought several times whether or not to publish this today. Students wanted to speak today but no-one was around to listen. So we’ll speak a little louder. They’re grouping, sending emails as a collective. A journalism student in the building is even making a video.
Ownership of Pure has recently changed and I had a positive productive meeting with new owners last week. From the openness of this meeting, I truly hold faith and confidence that they will manage ongoing issues and take student voice seriously for the future.
A key part of that is dependent on rebuilding the trust of the students living there now who have been facing so many difficulties and making sure days like today do not happen. I realise change takes time and there are unresolved issues. And in time this campaign which exposes difficulties will hopefully become a partnership to overcome them and create a great place for students to feel good about.
Today was just one day reminiscent of many months before it, but hopefully not telling of the days and months to come.
Peace, Love and Better Homes.
Rima Amin – firstname.lastname@example.org