Saturday, April 12, 2014

My three-month brief for a solicitor following my arrest for rough sleeping in the Barbican

My husband Declan and I were clients of the West London Churches Homeless Concern (WLCHC) rolling winter night shelter programme for its three-month duration, commencing on 7 January 2014. Two days later, on 9 January, our Jobseeker’s Allowance was terminated without cause and, because letters of termination were never issued to us, Declan could not exercise his appeal rights. On 21 January, we were approached by a WLCHC caseworker about an offer of a flat for us made by the Single Homeless Project (SHP) that would be paid for by Housing Benefit if we could produce two 12-month employment contracts to the tune of £3000 each. (The next day, on 22 January, Declan lodged his case in the High Court (Judicial Review) against the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on the ground of procedural unfairness.)

On 5 February, following a donation from an American benefactor, we presented the SHP with two signed £3000 contracts as employees of Network for Church Monitoring that were due to commence on the next working day after we moved into suitable accommodation; however, the SHP then told us that we first needed to come up with two payments each under contract before a Housing Association would have a flat for us paid for by housing benefit. Then, on 26 March, having satisfied this requirement, a housing association announced that they had a flat for us in Newham. But our SHP caseworker wrote on 3 April that “the property is not ready to be seen at present and it will take around 2 weeks for the property to become available for viewing”, informing us further that we could neither view the flat nor make a housing benefit claim for at least 3 weeks because he is on annual leave until 23 April.

So we have been back sleeping rough in the Barbican since 14 April (following the fencing off of our sleeping pitch in December 2013), where we expect to be harassed, intimidated and attacked by the police, security, et al. According to our SHP caseworker before he went on his holidays, we don't qualify for emergency accommodation because both City and Haringey councils see us as non-priority. Further, this caseworker explored sourcing short term temporary accommodation at a reduced rate in a hotel or lodging house for when the WLCHC winter shelters closed, but was relatively unsuccessful; the best he could do was £900 for four weeks in B&B accommodation. Declan is currently looking for a solicitor who will provide the SHP with a letter for either City or Haringey council that clearly establishes we are a priority need case, and, accordingly, should be provided with short term temporary accommodation while we await a permanent home (please see, for example, an email Declan received from Stephensons Solicitors attached).

As I mention in the statement above, our sleeping pitch was fenced off in December 2013.
20 December 2013 (click to enlarge):
17 December 2013 (click to enlarge):

This is Declan packing up to leave on 16 December 2013 at our usual time of 6am:
(Click to enlarge):

And so much for "alternative remedies" to prevent us from becoming street homeless again on 14 April:

Click to enlarge