If you watched the Channel 4 Dispatches programme the other day, you would have seen the brutality of Local Authorities when it comes to homelessness assessment.
Although it reflected what Council’s do very well, I think it’s important to say that it’s not all their fault when it comes to denying someone housing.
The law is very strict, doesn’t allow for manoeuvre nor does it directly provide assistance to the Council. The Local Authority can only give you what they have to give, if you’re accepted as homeless – and unfortunately that is very little anyway. This is because Councils are strapped on housing supply, Officers to support and money to assist people who are in dire need of help.
This puts Councils in the firing line of people who are rejected help, because many don’t understand the complex machinery behind the Homelessness Team. With homelessness rising nationally, they have hundreds of applications with very little resource.
I think it is generally unfair that Officer’s get this flack, although sometimes they do deserve it, but the issue shouldn’t lie with them. Government are the ones who set the legislation – it’s them with the responsibility as to why you haven’t been housed when you need it.
Vulnerability is also an area that many fight with to get assistance, but Council’s deny all the time. The reason? Because according to Case Law – they have to see that you “are more vulnerable than an ordinary street homeless person“.
Yes, that’s right – how do you measure something as obscure and grey-area’ed than this!? But they have too… And this can determine whether you’re eligible for assistance or not. If you are more vulnerable, you are (unfortunately) in the minority to be helped, not the majority.
It’s difficult for both parties, especially the person who is facing homelessness or is indeed homeless. My one piece of advice if you know you will be homeless in a number of days:
Do not sit on this, knowing you’ll be homeless, and approach the Council or hostel the day you become homeless – but instead the MOMENT you know! If they have enough time, they will have a better chance of really helping you – but if you give them no time, they’re not magicians.
This piece of advice was given to me, and it saved me from being street homeless again right before University in 2012. It’s the timing you give which tends to determine how much help you’ll be given.
If you need help or support, please see England and Wales Homelessness Numbers, Scottish Numbers Directory and what will happen when you apply to the Council as homeless.
It’s vital that if you’re homeless, you get support – and this post is here to help you get the most out of a system that is at near-breaking point, through no fault of your situation.