In the last blog entry I told you about the reason we were forced out of our privately rented flat. Maybe one day I’ll look back and laugh about it all, right now I’m still having nightmares and anxiety attacks, as is my husband. But to add insult to injury, we’ve been put in another awful situation.
Want to know why? Read on
So here we are now; severely testing the hospitality of others, causing my back more damage, and still struggling with the mental/emotional fall out of being scared out of our own home – the place we should feel safest.
We are homeless, we cannot find any private rentals (housing benefit does not pay for much around here, and there is a shortage of landlords willing to take on housing benefit tenants anyway), and are reliant on the council helping find us somewhere to live.
We’ve gone from fighting an unreasonable landlord, to fighting an unreasonable council.
This is the way the system works. We are awarded a set amount of points, for us it is quite low as we have no children and have not been in the area all that long (1 year), on top of that we are given additional “Priority Need” points due to being homeless. So far, so good.
Every week new properties are advertised on the council website for us to bid on. Whoever has the most points gets the property. Still makes sense. Now for the stupid bit.
Our priority points are only taken into account sometimes. So, for example, the first week there was a property in our home village (local connection advantage), which was 1 bed (we are eligible for), and ground floor (perfect for my back), it was also advertised as suitable for homeseekers (rather than transfers within the system). You’d assume wouldn’t you that we could apply for that one?
It wasn’t being made available for priority need. Now, if it was available for priority need then it could have housed a homeless person/couple, thereby reducing the number of homeless. But no, instead, someone who currently has a home but has more points (maybe through living in the county longer) is able to bid for it and get it. Whereas us, without a home, cannot. Or, we can, but only with the minimal amount of points we have, which are hugely unlikely to get it.
You would think that being homeless kind of trumps just wanting a new home. In a scale of who would you give a property to, surely it goes..
1- homeless person(s)
2 – people whose current homes aren’t ideal
What really interests me is that we’ve spoken to a legal aid solicitor who has said that this is the only county she’s ever heard of who do this. Every other county she’s worked with apply your priority need points to ALL properties.
Now, if this isn’t bad enough, we only get to be considered “Priority Need” for 6 weeks, even if we are still homeless at the end of these 6 weeks. After that the council may extend our Priority Need status if they consider that there haven’t been any suitable properties. Or they will offer us one property, if we then turn that property down they will consider us intentionally homeless and will not have any obligation to help us.
Which is fine, unless they do something clever like offer us a flat which is any higher than 1st floor. Any higher than that and I cannot manage it, I know this, I’ve tried. It’s why we moved away from our beloved Brighton, I can just about do 1 flight of stairs, but I’m biting back tears of pain.
I’m 26 with chronic back pain, but here’s the crucial bit.. it’s undiagnosed. There is no label. It’s just there, day in, day out. I’ve had all kinds of tests done, and we still don’t why it’s happened. It’s definitely real, I can promise you that, sometimes when I sleep I dream that I’ve imagined it, then I wake up, move, and feel pain course through me. But it’s near on impossible to be registered as disabled with something which is undiagnosed, and not visible. So I’m not officially disabled, on paper anyway.
How is this relevant? Because it means that there is a chance they will use this little snippet of information to say that us refusing a 3rd floor flat with no lift access is us making ourselves intentionally homeless, and therefore withdraw their duty of care towards us.
I also know that they will argue that some priority need properties do become available. But if you are only getting 2 priority need properties a week, doesn’t it make sense that these will be in very high demand? Don’t get me wrong, someone with children should be housed ahead of us. However, if so few properties are available to homeless people, will we ever get anywhere?
Right now we are still looking at private rentals, but as time goes on, our ability to pay a deposit and month up front (housing benefit is paid in arrears – which makes perfect sense when rent is always paid up front, of course) is going to vanish.
If anyone could explain to me how this system is in anyway logical, then please do let me know. Because I cannot see anyway of justifying it without denying that finding homes for homeless people should be the most important thing in social housing.