Ranty Friday — Homeless accommodation

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.

One

Thousand

Pounds

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.

*EDIT*

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.

*****************


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  • Its awful. We live in a 4 bed detached house(cheshire) for £200 less than that a month!! How can they justify £1000 for that!!!
    I hope something is done!
    A lot of private rental are not happy with housing benefit which is a huge problem. My grandad is a landlord and he is fine with this as the council have to pay him.

    Victoria

  • In the current climate, people’s perceptions of homelessness needs to change. So many people are just one or two pay cheques away from a similar situation to our own (although that was down to health issues) and judgemental people don’t help. It’s a horrible vicious circle. We only top up £18 per week which is a “service charge” to cover things like utilities that Housing Benefit doesn’t cover. There simply isn’t enough Social Housing to meet the demands of the current financial climate.

    I did like your suggestion a few nights ago of Councils renting off private landlords thus providing them with secure tenancy and then leasing to those in need.

    • Big hugs to you too. I know your situation is the other one above and how you did Christmas I don’t know. Or in fact every day since. Fingers crossed this all ends soon.

  • Get rid of the right to buy. All the council houses here have passed into the private sector, were bought at a massive discount and sold at a massive profit. Consequently no more social housing available.

    • Agreed. And a controversial one but I don’t think people should have the right to a council house for life. By all means if they are need, absolutely. But I had a friend years ago in Essex who was entitled to a council house, quite right, she got one. But then she got an amazing high flying job where she could have afforded to buy a four bed without a mortgage, but she refused to move because she didnt want a mortgage, she wanted a new car every year.

      An extreme case maybe, and not the norm, granted but even so I think that there should be some way, maybe that says that people’s situations need to be assessed.

  • These ladies are also my friends and I am shocked. I myself was in a council waiting list to be housed for 12 years and was lucky enough never to have been put in temporary accommodation although got close a couple of times.
    We have been lucky enough to buy our home – it’s ex-local authority and many of the houses on our estate still are local authority homes. The hugely frustrating thing is that most are 3 bedroom and occupied by just a couple who’s kids left home years ago. These people should have to move to something smaller to make way for the families who need this housing, after all these houses are not actually theirs.
    My other grumble is that they are planning on building 8 more 3 bedroom homes in our cul-de-sac. Fair enough, there’s room – they need to address parking issues which we have come up with solutions for, but the amount of people opposing these houses is ridiculous! Some of whom were lucky enough to buy their council homes for next to nothing (I was horrified when I checked our paperwork and found ours was purchased for £30k!).
    There are lots of houses to rent out there – charging ridiculous amounts and almost double out mortgage – something needs to be done and fast!

    • Absolutely agree. Something needs to happen.

      It is all very well building these houses but what about building houses that people can afford to rent? Replacing the council housing stock. Madness.

  • I cannt thank you enough for raising this issue on your blog. The council have now assessed our homeless application and have deemed us unintentionally homeless, therefore will be helping to find us suitable accommodation.

    That said, we are still in this dire room in this dire shared house and no one knows for how long. The answer we get every time we ask is that there are no social houses for us.

    We continue to trawl the private sector for a landlord who will take us, at a price we can afford.

    Xx

    • Karen I cannnot begin to imagine existing ( I can’t call it living, how can anybody live with those daily challenges) as you have been doing, through no fault of your own. I know that Gary has been unwell and that your little boy has medical issues too, all of which are not helped by any of this. There has to be a better way than this.

      It is scandalous.

      Let me know what we can do to fight your corner and get you out and into a place to call your own.

  • So well said Mummy Barrow 🙂 I am so with you on all of this, The Councils are basically robbing Peter to pay Paul and different departments don’t talk to one another PROPERLY. They should hand the organisation over to us bloggers – we could put them straight, eh?! I was so lucky when I had to leave my home (long story), Grace, who was 3 months old, and I stayed with my Mum and because I still had my name on a mortgage, the Council could only let me rent privately – I wasn’t allowed on the council list. I was lucky enough to get granted three quarters of the deposit, I sold my car for the rest and managed to find a decent Landlord who trusted me. Well done Karen for your tireless crusade to get this resolved, I know you have had some success. It’s about time all Councils changed this ridiculous system.

  • I’ve been reading the blog about this family. It’s appalling. The whole system stinks. What makes me cross is that in our road, there are 3 empty houses, that were bought privately, that, the owner wanted to rebuild into flats but couldn’t get planning permission (his plans were outrageous) and now they’re sitting empty, yet our council also has to house families in b&b accommodation. Makes no sense! I really hope Karen and her family get a proper home soon, I cannot imagine how stressful and difficult it must be!

  • Great rant. I totally agree, I had been through something similar some 15 years ago and it is soul destroying on top of everything else you have to deal with on an every day basis which is difficult enough at the best of times. To my, not so clever and qualified in housing matters, mind; it doesn’t make any real sense that the councils involved haven’t thought of a better solution. For that money the family could be placed in a good hotel, with room service! The B&B I was placed in was a rancid dump filthy with thread bare carpet for £700 a week. I left and was thrown off of the housing list, but was lucky enough to be able to rent a 2 bed flat from a family friend for a quarter of that. I’m shocked that 15 years on nothing has changed.

  • I’m so pleased you have picked this up and blogged about it Mummy Barrow xx I re-read this post last night and tweeted it as I just CANNOT comprehend why it is ok to put a family into B&B accommodation for longer than a week. It should only ever be temporary before moving into the accommodation the council have found you. I’m shocked to my core about Karen’s situation particularly as her son has special needs. It’s not easy without that added element so god knows how you are coping Karen. Karen is so lovely too and should not be going through this. And Mummy Glitzer, I hadn’t realised you are in the same situation. I hope it resolves itself for you very soon too. It’s times like this when you wonder if there is anything else you can do to help. It makes you feel so damn useless and at the hands of someone else pushing paperwork about xx

  • It just makes no sense! Why basic logic can’t come into council decisions I don’t know.
    We lived in a B&B and then a homeless hostel for a year when we were first married (our landlord didn’t want babies in his property!) It was a horrific time and it very nearly killed our marriage. The hostel was designed for single mothers and Simon was regularly told off for being there, When they moved a drug addict with severe mental health issues in life got really interesting! I would often have to dispose of used needles that had been left in the kitchen and when she finally lost it, 3 policeman, 2 paramedics and a dr had to hold her down to sedate her in the corridor and section her – all in front of young children and vulnerable young women!
    I hope there is swift and positive outcome for both families – you have my sympathies and admiration for staying so strong – we’re all behind you!

    • how shocking is that Mary? They didnt want a baby in the house?!!!

      So pleased you got out the other side.

  • Last year, as you know, Papasaurus and I nearly broke up – I looked for a month non stop for rented accomodation within a 50 miles radius.
    Because I don’t work I was told by EVERY lettings agent that I’d need not only a guarantor but also 6 months rent in advance to be paid every 6 months in advance and a YEARS rent as a deposit.
    And that’s me, with a good credit history, no arrears.

    Private landlords I approached didn’t want to know because I didn’t work – but were happy as long as I could give 6 months rent in advance and a bug deposit – meaning for me to live in a bog standard just-big-enough for our needs place was going to cost £8,000.
    Again that’s for someone who can give good references and has a good credit history.

    I dread to think how hard it is if you are in homeless accommodation – the choices must be tiny – if any x

    • Exactly.
      And that is the situation that many find themselves in. When a landlord serves notice and they have to move, many tenants can’t. They can’t find that money. They were able to pay on going rent but to find a chunk of money to move to a new place, the cycle starts and we have situations such as these.

      People trapped. Sometimes in abusive or dangerous relationships where they need to get out, but can’t.

      Just desperate.

  • I know too well the reasons people are homeless. I ended up in a bail hostel at 16 for my own reasons – but this meant I was mixed up with all manner of people. My boyfriend when he got a flat used to drag people off the streets to live there with him,, just because he knew how bad it was.

    Before Birmingham got a facelift, where the market was, there was people picking up the rotting fruit off the floor to eat it – and even out of the bin. The whole area just stunk! They *could* in theory receive benefits – but it’s not that easy with no fixed abode – and I believe you had to go and sit and wait in the office all day.

    I know councils to move people from B&Bs into private rented accommodation but they don’t then help with the cost – which is massive – even though, as you say, it would probably work out cheaper for the council.

    Social housing is an awful mess. x

  • We’re on housing benefit due to illness and recently we’ve been looking into moving closer to my parents. We’ve had terrible trouble trying to find somewhere to live because of this. Some people are so judgemental it’s frustrating!

    We keep a separate bank account for our rent and the housing benefit goes in there and the rent goes out of the same account so it doesn’t get touched.

  • I’ve been there and done that, but thankfully only for 6 weeks. I was housed quickly because I’m lucky enough to live in an area with a shorter than average list and because I was willing to move to a village when most people wanted to live in the town. It is dire, I had a 6 week old baby at the time and it was approaching Christmas. The people in the room next door smoked weed constantly and the women paid to be at the house daily were evil. That said, I made a very good friend in there and 9yrs later we are still friends.
    Of course, I’m now paying for taking a house no one else wanted because the bedroom tax means I have one room too many, despite never asking for it and nowhere smaller being available, but that’s another story!

  • 1000 pounds…Someone ELSE always benefits OTHER than those in need. It is maddening. Why can’t tax dollars go where they are supposed to go? It just seems so simple to me. I am happy to support people who are down and out. They are not any different than me, other than the grace of God. Why isn’t it that simple?

  • I’m guessing this is what the whole ‘bedroom tax’ is meant to help but it sounds like it is just moving the problem around, creating new problems while trying to solve current ones. The people currently in larger properties will soon fall behind on their rent with the additional bedroom tax and find themselves homeless!

    Someone, somewhere has a solution I am sure and is not being listened to!

    It is times like this that I wish I knew and paid attention to politics!

  • God what a mess! Why is the government wasting so much money when they could sort out needs cheaper on a more individual basis! I really don’t want to turn into my mother, but for god’s sake wtaf is this country coming to???