Haringey homeless ‘gate-kept’ by council

July 28, 2008

Haringey Council is failing to house some of the most vulnerable people in our community, by turning them away or delaying their applications for so long that it amounts to the same thing.

This practice of ‘gate-keeping’, where the council misinforms, delays and unlawfully turns away someone making a homelessness application, occurs all over London. And it’s a practice that Haringey Anti-Poverty Initiative – recently formed by members of HSG and other local residents – is keen to stamp out.

HAPI has been distributing leaflets outside housing offices in Haringey. The leaflets clearly describe the tests used by the council to decide whether they have to house someone. The aim is to empower people by equipping them with the knowledge they need to assert their rights and get what they’re entitled to.

There are cases, however, where simply having the correct information is not enough for someone to get themselves housed. In these situations, HAPI uses a tactic called Direct Action Casework, developed by London Coalition Against Poverty (LCAP) for a similar campaign in Hackney.

The tactic combines traditional advice work with disruptive action to obtain a positive outcome more quickly than would otherwise have been achieved. It’s about working with someone to give them the support and encouragement to fight back against the system and get what they are due. Simple things, like accompanying someone to an assessment interview and taking notes, achieves much. At other times, LCAP has occupied the housing office and refused to leave until someone has been housed.

HAPI has seen its first few successes in Haringey. A single mother, Ms Y, had been staying with a friend – seven of them living in a two-bedroom flat. The council had already delayed housing her for a month when she was handed a leaflet about her rights. Armed only with this, she returned to the council to demand housing and was placed in emergency accommodation just days later.

A second woman, Ms Z, was living in such appalling conditions it was affecting the health of her and her baby. HAPI members went with her to the housing office and remained with her until the council found her emergency accommodation.

Supporting people on an individual basis can only take things so far. without a A wider campaign is needed to challenge poor housing conditions, extortionate rents and the lack of social housing. But these successes reinforce a culture of resistance and solidarity that must surely take things further. 

For more information about how to get involved with HAPI, email debt[AT]haringey.org.uk

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