Blogs Reports

Barriers


Reported by Sheryle

Published on Wednesday, April 20th, 2022

Covid 19 Isolation Service Delivery
Blogs Reports

Barriers


Written by Sheryle

Published on Wednesday, April 20th, 2022

Covid 19

Isolation

Service Delivery

In this report Sheryle tells us about the faceless new world order that Councils are offering people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. It is shocking that they are using COVID to cheapskate services and rob people of their right to be seen and heard and housed. Mat Amp [Project Officer]

I wanted to share my latest experience of accessing the homeless council services and while they are supposed to provide a service to help, most of the council authorities are building barriers to the provision of emergency housing.  COVID has given them the opportunity to completely isolate and work from home without ever having to actually face up to the people they fail.  

I have never been in rent arrears before until I changed my claim to Universal Credit after my child was born and Universal Credit started paying my housing costs. When filling the online application, the housing association I am with disagreed with the amount of rent and property details I had entered and changed it but they changed it with the incorrect details.

This led to a underpayment in my housing costs. I was not notified of their mistake until four months later when I received a letter warning me of court proceedings to evict me and to contact them immediately… I contacted them and I had to agree with a payment plan to pay off the arrears they had put me in. 

 If I stop these payments, I will be sent a letter of eviction which means I would make myself and my child intentionally homeless, so I have no choice but to pay it. I am in a one-bedroom flat at the moment.

My child is getting bigger, and I am sleeping in the front room/kitchen as I have a open plan kitchen. I am now overcrowded and at risk of eviction if I don’t pay my arrears.

I am meant to be in supported housing for the past two and half years, but I have never seen or met a support worker in this time until last week when I had a phone call from a guy explaining he was ‘the new support worker and did I need any support?’. I told him ‘yes if he could help I have a couple of problems I could do with some advice for’.  

He is supporting me in challenging the Housing Association with the rent arrears they have put me in and also advised me to go to the council for a homeless application.

I took his advice firstly going to the council building where I was told they no longer do face-to-face advice/drop-in and instead to phone a 0208 number which is not free. It took me three hours to get through to talk to someone who then told me I can get a interview for housing advice which would be a telephone interview. 

Also, they wanted my email address to send me a link by email for a customer portal which is a online journal to send evidence they needed me to provide. After I got off the phone call I thought to myself ‘what if I was single and actually presenting myself homeless?’. I would have no credit or limited credit on my phone if I had a phone. 

What if I had low battery or full battery but it had been used up after being on hold a hour and half? What if my phone was not a smart phone as I couldn’t afford one? What if I don’t have the technology skills to connect with this new online crap and to manage emails and sending attachments? And the most important one to me is what if I don’t have the identification they needed e.g passport, birth certificate?

I asked the guy on the phone if they will ever go back to face-to-face and he said ‘probably not’ and ‘all the councils are doing this now, not just London’. So basically now if you go to the council and present yourself homeless you are up shit creek and would have to sleep on the street until an outreach worker finds you. This is shocking. I thought before COVID the council were crap at supporting people who present themselves homeless. But this totally blew my mind!!!!

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Written by Sheryle


I'm Sheryle Thomas. I live in London . I was homeless on/ off for 24 years. I am now in supported housing. I am a keen activist / feminist who helps support women experiencing homelessness and volunteers within a group to help with period poverty whilst experiencing homelessness.

Read all of Sheryle's articles

Tags


Covid 19 Isolation Service Delivery

2 thoughts on “Barriers

  1. I see why your report is called ‘Barriers’. How frustrating. Where is their commitment to accessibility and I wonder how many people have been unable to get through to them? 🙁

  2. The move to online has a great many advantages (e.g. accessibility) but why can’t we have more options?! Narrowing services to online only, no face-to-face, expensive phone lines is just so exclusionary and unhelpful.

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