Housing activists staged a demonstration at Southwark Council’s Tooley Street office after two domestic abuse survivors were told they are not ‘vulnerable’ enough to qualify for full homeless duty by the authority.
The protest on Thursday, January 17, was a last ditch attempt from Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth (HASL) to stop two women facing eviction from temporary accommodation from being left homeless.
The group has been critical of private housing offers made by the council’s housing team and has called on it to give both women – whose identities are being kept confidential – priority housing due to their circumstances.
Both women have been told they are not deemed to be ‘vulnerable’, and therefore do not qualify for full homeless duty – and permanent accommodation – from the council.
One of the women, whom the group is referring to as ‘L’, has already been evicted from her temporary accommodation and made homeless since the protest.
The council has offered L private accommodation, but HASL says taking it up means she cannot qualify for the council’s housing waiting list and her appeal would be stopped – leaving her in a catch-22. She described herself as being left a ‘shell of a person’ by the decision.
“Going through this process is not for the faint hearted. It is only through support from others that I have not had a breakdown.
“The end result they have left a shell of a person from somebody already surviving abuse, mental health and recovery from addiction and other issues,” she said.
But the council’s housing chief, councillor Stephanie Cryan, Southwark’s cabinet member for housing management and modernisation, told the News private accommodation could meet L’s ‘immediate needs’.
“I have been in contact with the lady concerned, and am confident that the council is doing everything we can to support her,” she explained to the News.
“We have been trying to help her move from a temporary hostel which is intended only for emergencies, into a more stable and permanent home, and have identified a number of properties in the private sector for her but she has refused all our offers of assistance.
“We also agreed that she can continue to bid for council housing, but unfortunately like most councils, we simply don’t have a ready supply of council homes for everyone who would like them.
“Although we are building thousands more, we will always struggle to meet demand.
“We have to prioritise, and in this case we are confident the resident’s immediate needs can be best met in the private sector.”
Elizabeth Wyatt, from HASL, said the two cases highlighted that the council had failed to make good on its commitment to give more support to survivors of domestic abuse.
“Our two members are vulnerable women who have fled domestic violence. As well as suffering abuse, they are both dealing with health issues which affect their daily lives.
“There can be no doubt that these women are highly vulnerable and desperately need the security of a full homeless duty,” she said.