The waiting game: six weeks struggling against gatekeeping

Our member L, a mother of four, is due to be evicted this Monday, 3rd July. She first approached Haringey Council more than five weeks ago, but they have only just confirmed that they will provide emergency housing for Monday night.

Like most councils, Haringey is known for diverting people away from making a homeless application, to reduce homeless figures and meet central government targets. This is often called ‘gatekeeping’. One tactic they use is to tell people who are being evicted to stay in the property until the bailiffs arrive. This goes against even the government’s own official guidance. But the council keeps people waiting until the last possible minute, hoping that tenants will find alternative accommodation.

Moving house is difficult in any circumstances, but Haringey Council have made the situation far worse for L and her family. She has spent so much time and energy over the last month, fighting to get even this far, and she still does not know where she will be sleeping on Monday.

I’m less stressed than I was, but still stressed. If we didn’t go to the council all these times, they might have left me to wait until after the eviction on Monday. At least now I know they will have something for me. But if they’d seen me last week, maybe now I would already know where I will go.

It’s important to know your rights. It’s easy to be discouraged, and that’s what they want, but don’t give up. And it’s very very important to have someone with you. Alone, I think I would still be waiting to hear anything.’

 

This is the full story of L’s long and frustrating struggle with the council.

After L’s housing benefit was stopped two months ago, her landlord decided to enforce a suspended possession order on the flat.

  • Six weeks before the eviction date:

L received a court document giving the landlord permission to issue an eviction warrant. She immediately took this to Customer Services. At first, they refused to book an appointment with a housing advisor until she had seen an outreach worker from Shelter. When she arrived for this, she was told that the Shelter worker had already left for the day.

After waiting to be seen again by Customer Services, L was eventually given an appointment with a housing advisor for a date three weeks later.

  • Three weeks before the eviction date:

L received the eviction notice. She immediately took this to Customer Services, where she was criticised for ‘not informing the council of her eviction earlier’. They sent her to a housing advisor.

The advisor told L that he could not refer her to the homelessness team until he had finished negotiating with the landlord. L had already tried to persuade the landlord to stop the eviction. She showed the advisor messages in which the landlord made it clear that he wanted her gone because she had complained about disrepair. However, the advisor contacted the landlord and offered him a bribe of £2,500. He encouraged the landlord to take his time thinking the offer over.

L suggested that the council could begin assessing her homelessness case while they waited for the landlord’s response. The law says that if someone is likely to be homelessness within 28 days, the council should make enquiries about their eligibility and whether they have a duty to house them. But the advisor said this was impossible.

L said she was worried that her case would not be referred before the eviction date. The advisor told her not to worry, there was plenty of time left…

  • Two weeks before the eviction date:

L had not received any updates from the housing advisor and he had not replied to her calls. HHAG members went with her to hand in a letter of support from the group, asking the council to confirm the emergency housing by the following week. We had no response.

  • Ten days before the eviction date:

L finally received a message from the advisor saying that the landlord had refused to stop the eviction, and he would refer her to Housing Solutions.

  • One week before the eviction date:

L had not heard anything from Housing Solutions. She and a couple of other HHAG members managed to get past security and talk to a receptionist in the housing office. The receptionist contacted the housing advisor and asked him to phone L that day, but he didn’t.

  • Six days – four working days- before the eviction date:

L and a couple of supporters went back to the housing office, but were not allowed through the door. She went back to Customer Services and managed to get a ‘triage’ letter, giving her permission to enter the office.

After several hours’ wait, a triage worker finally gave her the name of her Housing Solutions caseworker. L was told that the caseworker was busy, but would phone her the following day. We asked if they could just check the calendar and confirm an appointment time now, but were abruptly refused.

  • Three working days before the eviction date:

L did not hear from the Housing Solutions caseworker. She tried to call, but discovered that she had been given an invalid telephone number.

  • Two working days before the eviction date:

L went back to the housing office to ask about the phone number. The security guard went to check it. By luck, the caseworker happened to be nearby and called L in to talk to her. She finally confirmed that L would be given emergency accommodation on Monday. But L is still waiting to hear where this will be.

 

 

 

 

 

June 30, 2017  Tags: , , ,   Posted in: HHAG ACTIONS