As of December 2018, we’ve had contact with 7 councils in the course of supporting our clients into safe, suitable housing. The following stats from one council give a good snapshot of a much wider issue that adds more depth to the stat we posted last week.When someone who has lost their home is referred to JustUs, they have often never approached a council for housing assistance before, meaning we can accompany them from the start of the homeless application process. Sometimes however, they have already approached a council for help, but have done so without the help of a knowledgeable advocate.
In one area, out of the 24 people we accompanied from the start of the process, all 24 were offered housing (as required by the law in those cases). The council subsequently housed 21 of those people itself in safe, independent accommodation, 2 moved into a hostel and 1 moved in with a partner. So far, so good.
It’s a different story though for those who approached the council without a knowledgeable advocate…In the same area we worked with approximately 50 people who had approached the council unaccompanied, at least 34 of whom were initially gatekept and denied housing*, but who we subsequently helped to re-approach the council and were then housed. A further 3 people were initially provided with temporary accommodation but were incorrectly told that there was no duty to provide them with a settled home until we challenged the decisions successfully.** There’s more than one lesson here, but these stats underline how important it is that everyone who is homeless is supported to approach their local council with an advocate who knows the law and is prepared to stick up for their clients’ rights. And that’s not to mention some searching questions these stats raise, like,
‘Why are people gatekept at all?’,
‘How many people have been left homeless when there was a legal duty to accommodate them?’
‘Why is it that so many people who work in the homelessness sector know about this issue and yet accept it as if there’s nothing they can do about it?’
Homelessness is a political issue and the solution is largely political. So don’t worry about whether we should give money to people begging or not, if you really want to help reduce homelessness, write to your MP and local councillors to ask them to address gatekeeping, and check out what politicians are doing about the issue before you vote.
* this malpractice is commonly known as gatekeeping – when various legal obligations are not fulfilled when a homeless person approaches a council for help with their housing
**As it happens, many of those who were initially denied help were then also incorrectly told there was no long-term duty to house them, but JustUs was able to successfully challenge the decisions and get them an offer of suitable housing.