What Does It Take To Become A Housing Priority In Britain Today?
I ask this is the nicest possible way. I have been trying to navigate the ‘system’ for several weeks, now. As readers of this blog know, I took in a homeless friend at the end of January. I said he could stay on my sofa, as he would have been on the streets and was suicidal. I can’t think of a single person I know in my (rather large) circle of friends and acquaintances who would have let this vulnerable man end up on the streets. I offered my sofa and I put the wheels in motion to get him a support worker. I found the agencies he needed to contact to be housed. I even sat at his side in the doctor’s surgery.
Fast forward two months, and nothing has changed except for my own mental health, which is now seriously in decline. I am trying to cope, and I think I am failing. You see, my friend, alone, broke, suicidal, homeless, is not a priority to be housed. My future, right now, is a terrifying (to me) picture of never having my house my own again.
The Council see their duty of care as being discharged, because the man is on my sofa and is therefore ‘not homeless’. They have said to try and get a bond for a deposit for a private landlord. That’s wonderful, but when someone is on ESA, which he is, how is he meant to scrape together the ridiculously expensive Admin Fees for a letting agent? He doesn’t have £20 spare, let alone £150. I am feeding him from my own family budget and have been for the eight weeks his Benefit Claim has taken to be assessed. Yet the council think he can pay admin costs for a landlord who will ask for £400 a month for a bedsit.
The doctor has referred him to a mental health support group. He is helping him with his depression. He cannot, however, get this man housed by an indifferent council. He is not coming out of jail, nor is he coming out of the ‘Care System’ so is not a priority.
He’s simply homeless and flat broke after falling through the cracks of care for twenty-five years.
I need to make it clear: I have no issue with him being housed in the private sector. I simply fail to understand how he is meant to get the cost of the fees together to pay for the privilege of being housed. As it stands, he will need about £800 before I get my house back.
My work is suffering. My mind feels as though it is fracturing. The ever helpful council have said they will ‘see what they can do’. What they can do, thank you, is house him. Naive, maybe, but I thought he would be helped and housed by now. I have known people housed within a couple of weeks and I really want to know how they managed it. Likely by spells and magic, chanting something while standing on one leg in the light of a full moon, while the stars are in Taurus and a nightingale sings. I don’t know any more.
All I know is I cannot carry on like this and nor can my friend. It is as though we are trapped in Limbo, unable to move on or to work toward a future. If you have the answers I am searching for, please tell me. If you know any landlords willing to take Housing Benefit without extortionate admin charges through a letting agency, then please tell me.
Kathleen Kerridge is an author of fantasy fiction. Her books are available on Amazon HERE.