When I say “homeless person” what do you think of? A drug addict sleeping under a bridge? An alcoholic sleeping on a park bench? An ex convict sleeping on a camp bed in a half way house? A Big Issue Seller?
What if I told you a couple of my friends were homeless? And not only that but that they were homeless because of something other than one of the above scenarios? Homeless and living in hostels. One of them since Christmas Eve. The other moved more recently.
Not just them but also their families. Their children. Victims of circumstance where they have been asked to move from their private rented accommodation and have had nowhere else to go. So they have been housed by the council. In what is termed “temporary accommodation”. The Housing Minister Mark Prisk said this week:
There is absolutely no excuse for any family to be stuck in bed and breakfast accommodation, and the law is clear that families should only be placed in this temporary accommodation in an emergency and only then for no more than six weeks.
You see that? No more than six weeks…. How come one of my friends has been in it for six months? One room with her husband and child for six months.
My other friend has been moved to one room with her husband and three children, one who has complex medical needs. They share a toilet and bathroom with 11 adults. Eleven. With one toilet. Can you imagine telling a child they can’t have a wee when they want one because somebody else is in there. Sharing cooking facilities. Washing. Everything. Living in one room.
Guess what this one room is costing the council? One. Thousand. Pounds. Per. Month.
For five people to live in one room.
Here you go. Here is Karen’s story in her own words: Woman Wife and Mum
How in anybody’s books can that be right?
Councils are strapped for cash. Cuts are being made. So how on earth can this make any sense? Why is a Council paying £1000 a month to rent one room in a house that means this family has to share a toilet with a load of other people?
You could rent a three bedroom house for that.
Why don’t Councils do that? Why don’t they rent suitable private accommodation for these families and help them out of these hideous situations?
The ripple effect of these scenarios is massive. The impact on the mental health of all the people in these situations is profound. And long lasting.
It has to stop.
I am adding this as Mummy Glitzer mentioned it in a comment below, as does Victoria, and I thought it would be better to put it here.
Landlords don’t like Housing Benefit for two reasons:
1) Clawback. This means that if it is found somebody was in receipt of Housing Benefit fraudulently the Council reserves the right to “claw back” that Benefit from the last person who had received it. The poor unsuspecting landlord. And this can be done up to six years after the event. So landlords are advised to think very carefully before accepting it, and when I have been involved I have had advised a landlord to only accept payments from his tenants. So the tenant gets the Housing Benefit, the landlord receives it from them. Not the landlord direct from the Council.
2) Mortgage companies don’t like Housing Benefit because it makes it difficult for them to repossess the property if the landlord defaults on the mortgage. So many “buy to let” mortgages will stiplulate that a tenant must not be in possession of the benefit.
The above points limit impact on the available accommodation. So somebody, paid more than me, and whose job it is, needs to look at this whole system and sort it out.
I don’t know how to resolve it. I don’t know how to fix it.
But I know that leaving families in one room for months on end at more than the market value of a local three bedroom property is NOT the answer.