Taken from an article in the Woking News & Mail, 22 March 1918
The following article shows the shift in attitude towards refugees in the county, both Belgians who had fled their homes at the start of the war and those who had left areas of London prone to zeppelin air raids for the safety of Surrey. As the war entered its last year, residents faced severe shortages of food, materials and various resources; this contemporary news article looks at the impact these shortages had on attitudes of Woking’s residents.
“The Housing Problem
Aliens to be Turned Out?
The police have been busily engaged during the week finding billets for soldiers and members of the W.A.A.C. Great difficulty has been experienced in finding sufficient accommodation and as there are some 400 odd more soldiers coming into the town we hear that the authorities are considering a scheme to turn out all those aliens who have come from air raid areas and paying exorbitant prices for accommodation, in order to find the necessary housing accommodation for those engaged on National Service.
During the past week or two the town has been besieged with panic stricken Jews, who are paying from 5 guineas to 20 guineas a week for furnished apartments and also buying houses to turn the tenants out. This is a grave scandal and we rejoice to learn some property owners who are unworthy of being called Englishmen have had their fingers badly burned in their eagerness to sell their houses and turn tenants out to have been living there for years.
Other tenants, however, of the more timid and peace loving disposition, have given up possession and are now living in rooms under conditions which are against the principles of true hygiene, and lest the authorities take active steps this overcrowding is bound to lead to an epidemic of disease.
Profiteering in houses is not the prerogative of the small owner; the worst offenders other wealthy people acting through solicitors, and we know of several cases in which the application of the term “bloodsucking profiteer” is a very mild one.
When the town was invaded with refugees last August we were told there was no need for anxiety, and that if needs be the various churches, chapels and mission halls would be available for them. Those arrangements were for the refugees – we ask the authorities what arrangements have been made for the local residents who are being rendered homeless by reason of the influx these refugees?
We say it is imperative that a special meeting of the Council should be called to consider the whole question before it is too late. If the officials want data let them approach the house agents, and some of the residents in the Maybury, Walton, Eve Arnold and Chertsey Roads. They will learn not only of houses having been sold but of rents raised 20 per cent.”