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“Teresa” (not her real name) was due to be evicted from her property due to rent arears. Her toddler had previously been removed from her care by social services and placed in foster care and she had therefore surrendered her tenancy.
Teresa came to HOPE and explained that she had been informed by BDC’s Housing Needs Team that they could not help her, so she had nowhere to stay. But, they did agree that it would be in her best interests to secure a private rented property as soon as practical. And, although they would help and support her to find that property, they could not do anything for her immediately. BDC’s decision was that as she had voluntarily left her property and therefore had “made herself intentionally homeless” and that as a result, they did not owe her a “duty” to re-house her.
HOPE did question this decision, and raised the matter with the local council, homeless section, who makes such decisions. We were of the opinion that Teresa was extremely vulnerable as she would be at great risk if she had to sleep rough, which at that time was her only option. Unfortunately, the council were adamant and Teresa was left crying in our offices with nowhere to go.
HOPE did have a temporary vacancy in one of its shared houses, where a flat was being readied for another tenant but, whose entry had been delayed a few days. To avoid Teresa having to sleep on the streets, we agreed to house her temporarily. This was highly irregular and only possible on a night-by-night arrangement whilst we awaited the original tenant. In all, Teresa lived with us for 8 days.
During this time, Teresa was helped by the council’s Housing Needs Team to secure a one-bed private rented flat. HOPE donated furniture & bedding to her so she had something to sleep on at her new home.
Like many clients that come to HOPE, they have no other option, everyone else has turned them away. Teresa accepts responsibility for the mistakes she has made, and has now began to turn her life around. She has contact once again with her daughter, and sees her twice a week. She has stopped using drugs and is undergoing counselling through “Change, Grow, Live” and their Foundations of Change initiative, and is determined to stay “clean”.
But, Teresa is so grateful that she was able to do this only because HOPE exists. Current homelessness legislation classes few as “vulnerable” and therefore due a “duty” to be provided with accommodation. Resulting in charities like HOPE being the last resort for many in crisis, rather than sleeping rough on the street.
Written by Support Worker, Claire Robinson