CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

What do you do if the bank suddenly shuts your account?

Man sleeping in HS2 protest camp says NatWest shut him out without warning

19 November, 2020 — By Bronwen Weatherby

John lost his job at the start of the pandemic

ONE of the rough sleepers who have joined the HS2 protest camp in Euston says he was left with nowhere to go after his bank suddenly closed his account with no explanation.

John, 46, whose surname we are withholding, lost his job in construction at the start of the first lockdown in March.

Before the second lockdown began this month he was sleeping in a backpackers hostel in Camden when he realised he could no longer withdraw cash from his account. Thinking it was a problem with his debit card he headed to the bank’s branch in Camden Town, only to be told his account had been shut.

“The bloke just said that sometimes they close accounts down and there’s no reason given,” John said.

“I said to the man, you know you’ve just made me homeless? I had around £840 in my account and was planning on using it to rent a room in a house ­share. I had no money left on me, no way of paying for more nights in the hostel. I was in complete shock. I couldn’t believe what was happening to me, I still can’t really.”

He added: “The guy told me the only way to get my money is to open an account with another bank then fill in an application and the money would be transferred within 60 days. The worst thing was the next day I went around different banks but I wasn’t able to open a new account because I had nowhere to stay so I could not provide proof of address.”

He was later offered a free tent and blankets by the activists who have set up camp in a bid to stop the felling of trees in Euston Square Gardens as work on the High Speed 2 railway continues.

In the past few months thousands of NatWest customers have reported having their accounts closed for no reason, and members of other banks have had similar issues.

A Facebook group named “NatWest closed down my account” – formed to allow affected customers to share information – now has almost 4,000 members.

And a petition demanding NatWest stops shutting accounts without allowing customers impacted to access their money has been set up. John said he has been surviving on food from the local food bank and has been getting help from local homelessness groups and services, as well as support and some security from those who set up the camp in Euston.

John said: “I don’t know what I would’ve done without the protesters here, they’ve been keeping me alive this last week. But it’s still horrendous, I can’t sleep most nights because of the hordes of rats everywhere and I’d rather not be in this position at all.

“I’ve realised how hard it is to sort something like this out while staying in touch with all the people and services you need to when you’re homeless. Because every day you wake up and your main focus is on survival. How am I going to eat? Shower? It’s a constant struggle.

“More than anything I’m pretty devastated I’ve ended up in this position. It wasn’t part of my plan, and at times I’ve thought I might not be able to last until Christmas.”

On Tuesday, services helping John were able to find him a hotel room to stay for the next two weeks, then he will be moved to another form of temporary accommodation for the next 56 days. The New Journal has made several requests to NatWest for comment since Monday. Late last night (Wednesday), it said it was investigating the case but gave no further comment.

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