Birmingham, it’s no secret, is in the midst of a housing crisis. Over 12,000 people are in temporary accommodation, half of whom are children.
As ever, the brunt of this crisis is most sharply felt by those at society’s margins, Setting aside those denied recourse to public funds, and consigned to inadequate accommodation, often for years on end pending a Home Office decision on an application for leave to remain, all too frequently those granted leave to remain are plunged back into destitution and chaos at the point of transition to ‘mainstream’ support.
Increasingly, however, we are receiving approaches for help from people living in what is allegedly ‘supported housing’
One man with whom we are working; living through a ‘Windrush’ nightmare which is a story of its own andwho has lived and worked in this country for the past 5 decades, is now faced with the prospect of eviction from the ‘supported’ hostel room for which, prior to the termination of his Universal Credit due to his allegedly precarious immigration status, he was being charged £1000 per month in rent.
The terms of his ‘licence agreement’ are revealing, noting that our client can be evicted ‘at any time and without reason, by giving you a written notice’, and that ‘[Housing provider] will give you REASONABLE notice to end the licence, ‘reasonable notice; being defined as ‘a very short period of time if you are asked to leave because you are violent or disruptive’ – or, in other words, displaying behaviour of the type which might reasonably be thought to give rise to the need for the provision of supported accommodation.
Our client, in other words, stands to be made street homeless, at any point, for any reason, with no identifiable right of appeal, during a public health crisis, as we approach winter.
In relation to the nature of the ‘support’ our client might actually expect, the ‘licence’ simply averts that someone may check on him ‘from time to time’. He usually actually only sees anyone working for the housing provider around once every month, when he calls to collect his ‘service charge’. He is, in other words, being charged £12,000 per year to live in one room in a house in multiple occupation, being provided with no meaningful structured support of any kind, and wat risk of being evicted onto the streets at literally a minute’s notice.
This, plainly, is no way to resolve the city’s housing crisis.
For this reason, and for so many others, we are proud to be signatories to Shelter’s Fair Housing Campaign.
Please join us. It’s long past time to act.