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5 experiences that don’t guarantee housing

Five shocking experiences that won’t guarantee you help with housing (even when they should), says Matt Downie, director of policy & external affairs at homelessness charity Crisis

1.       Sleeping outside in freezing temperatures

It’s difficult to imagine sleeping rough at the best of times but the thought of bedding down in the snow is simply horrific.

If the temperature is due to drop below zero for three consecutive days, local authorities should provide emergency accommodation for rough sleepers. However, they don’t have a legal duty to do so and, worryingly, last winter 20% said they weren’t confident they had the resources to get everyone off the streets. With more and more people sleeping rough, this could mean hundreds facing life-or-death conditions next cold snap.

2.       Struggling with poor mental or physical health

You’d like to think that help is at hand for people whose medical condition leaves them struggling to keep their accommodation. Sadly it doesn’t really work like that – you only qualify for support if you can prove you’re more ‘vulnerable’ than the average rough sleeper.

That’s more ‘vulnerable’ than someone with a life expectancy of 47, who’s highly likely to suffer from poor physical and mental health, 40 times less likely to be registered with a GP than the general public and 13 times more likely to be a victim of violence. Which doesn’t leave much room for anybody else.

3.       Being a victim of domestic abuse

The government is pretty clear that victims of domestic abuse should get priority for housing support and it’s hard to disagree. But when we sent ‘mystery shoppers’ to investigate what really happens when you ask the council for help we found even having the law on your side may not be enough to protect you – one person was simply given the web address for Gumtree and told to borrow money for a deposit from her friends, despite stressing she felt unsafe after being violently attacked by her ex-partner.

20% of homeless women lost their homes as a result of violence. Forcing them onto the streets is no way to provide the support they need.

4.       Getting kicked out by your parents

Many people would turn to their family for a helping hand if they had nowhere else to go. Not everyone has a happy home to go back to, though – and once you’re over 18 you’re on your own as far as the law is concerned.

Of course, if you’re under 35 you could try and get a room in a shared flat. But with the Shared Accommodation Rate capped at a level that puts many properties out of reach the chances are you’ll be stuck on friend’s sofas – or worse, the streets.

5.       Losing your job and getting sanctioned

Paying the rent is tough when there’s no money coming in and getting sanctioned certainly doesn’t make things any easier. If this leads to you losing the roof over your head, however, it’s highly likely you’ll be considered ‘intentionally’ homeless and not deserving of support.

Worse still, whether or not you were sanctioned in the first place may have simply come down to where you live – recent Crisis research exposed wide variations in how the rules are being applied, with large numbers of unfair or inappropriate decisions in certain areas of the country leaving people cold, hungry and at greater risk of homelessness.

As it stands it is incredibly difficult to access help with housing if you are single and homeless in England. Crisis’ No One Turned Away campaign is calling for a review of the law so that no-one is forced to sleep rough. Visit www.crisis.org.uk/NOTA to find out more.

Matt Downie, director of policy & external affairs at Crisis

Published On: 14th April 2015