Friday, 19 December 2014

Charity launches campaign to save night shelters

A homelessness charity has launched a petition after Inside Housing highlighted a tribunal ruling that could see dozens of night shelters across England and Wales close.

Emmaus UK is calling on welfare minister Lord David Freud to ensure that councils do not stop housing benefit payments to night shelters.

Inside Housing revealed last week a number of councils were taking an upper tribunal judgement in Anglesey last year as case law and using it to review whether they pay housing benefit for people in night shelters in their areas.

The judge in the Anglesey case ruled the council was not liable to pay housing benefit to a man at a shelter in Holyhead because he did not store his possessions on site and had no automatic right to stay there from one night to the next. It could, therefore, not be deemed his permanent dwelling, the judge ruled.

The Emmaus campaign is being led by John Gall, from Emmaus Cambridge, who said: ‘As someone who was homeless for best part of a decade, I know first-hand the devastating impact this can have on people’s physical and mental health. Night shelters were a crucial refuge for me when I had nowhere else to go. I’m still in touch with a night shelter in Chichester which supported me when I needed their help the most.’

The petition can be found here.

Readers' comments (5)

  • Maurice Condie

    I am not sure I could support a campaign to keep some nightshelters open. Reality is homeless people should not be put in dormitory accommodation. Nightshelters don't really promote change. We should be campaigning for decent hostels, with single rooms.

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  • Outside Housing

    So the judge in the Anglesey case differentiated between the night shelter and other forms of accommodation on the following grounds:

    "he did not store his possessions on site and had no automatic right to stay there from one night to the next. It could, therefore, not be deemed his permanent dwelling"

    The first part is of course wrong as if a Council or RSL tenant did not store their possessions at their tenancy, it would very probably not be apparent and this ruling would not happen. Apart from that people in night shelters rarely have that many possessions to store anywhere.

    So we are left with the point tht people in night shelters haven't got a permanent dwelling. Yes, have you heard what you said THEY HAVE NOWHERE TO LIVE so haw about some COMPASSION.

    Some of the most unfortunate, and sometimes most vulnerable people, who for many different reasons might be in a night shelter (temporarily), are discriminated against.

    And Maurice Condie, you are right, people should campaign for decent hostels, but that is no reason to make people who need night shelters right now suffer.

    I hope the Emmaus campaign is successful.

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  • So, Maurice, while you are campaigning for decent hostels, with single rooms and living in the cloud cuckoo land where they get built (with money dropped by a passing flying pig presumably) where should homeless people sleep if all the night shelters close - do you really think that a park bench in mid-winter is better than a "dormitory"? Homeless people have to live in the real world, apparently unlike you.

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  • I entirely agree with Maurice, who, incidentally, works hard to provide homeless people with decent accommodation in the North East - not just hostels, but self-contained ordinary accommodation. In 2013, no-one should have to live in a dormitory, or, even worse, in a hall with beds in.

    Local authorities and other agencies across the country are trying hard to reduce the likelihood of anyone having to sleep rough. What is needed is additional long term and good quality temporary housing, as well as better access to social housing.

    In the meantime, I would accept that nightshelters are a better alternative to sleeping rough, but only through gritted teeth.

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  • Joe Halewood

    Hi Maurice - on points of principle nobody would agree with you. Yet look at the reality of what has been happening to hostel provision and principles have to go out of the window (unfortunately.)

    1. Numbers rising steadily year on year despite the gate-keeping that has been going on under the name of 'prevention' by Councils

    2. This being a further discrimination on top of most Councils seeing single homeless persons as much less of a priority as homeless families

    3. The loss of 4000+ homeless bedspaces nationally over last few years as a combination of (a) not in my borough (b) undeserving and lifestyle choice prejudices that abound, and (c) massive SP cuts

    Then throw in the ridiculously stupid NSNO programme being taken to the provinces from London. A huge focus on getting rough sleepers a roof (in hostels and shelters) but nowhere for them to go after that as move-on is simply not available and so the typical bedblocking situation arises.

    This of course is compounded by the bedroom tax. The lucky ones in hostels and shelters may have been moved on to the difficult to let 1 bed flats that nobody else would take - the same properties that are now the holy grail of social housing for those wanting to downsize to - Real joined up thinking eh!

    I could throw in the raising of SAR to those under 35 by this coalition and a host of other factors too. not least of the alarming anecdotal evidence of social tenants kicking out their children because of increased non-dependant deductions coming in at same time as bedroom tax, council tax and the way below inflation 1% rise in welfare benefits.

    Then add in some of the well-known practical matters such as if a hostel is self-contained it is no longer legally a hostel and for HB purposes too...which of course the whole exempt accommodation issue has been taxing the coalition minds as (a) they never thought about it and (b) are now all in a quandary over it with the benefit cap and Universal Credit.

    In other words the same old story - who gives a s**t about single homeless people and the usual policy from all government of nobody cares about them anyway and there is no votes there so lets all hope they go away...which of course they do and become even more transient in nature and even more 'difficult to reach' and even more unlikely to believe in any new "support model" that comes along when somebody's conscience is pricked...or its Christmas when the whole country has a volte face attitude towards those who are homeless and the general public has its one months of believing they are "Christian" to assuage their own guilt and lack of concern the other 11 months of the year.

    Other than that I fully agree dormitories and shelters are wrong.

    PS - Did I fail to mention the smugness of local councils who only see rough sleepers as homeless - Yes the same ones who massage the figures to please latest 'homeless czar' and believe NSNO services are a universal panacea.

    PPS - I didnt mention the local councillors of the right who support NSNO and other hare-brained schemes simply to remove the visibility of rough sleepers in out town and cities (they are of course hidden in rural areas in barns and hedgerows and thus not a 'problem.')

    PPPS - I didnt mention the UKIP / raving right-wing Tory latest narrative over 'x%' are eastern Europeans in London and so engender even more white British / Daily Fail resentment towards all rough sleeper and homeless single persons - who are of course all criminals and addicts etc, etc.

    I should have mentioned why the hell some jumped-up jobsworth 'guardian of the public purse' moron in a council in Anglesey came up with the notion of saying we shouldn't be paying HB to these vagabonds who have the temerity to have no roof over their head...what sort of unspeakable person came up with such a notion?

    Oh dear am I ranting that we as a society don't give a damn in any case and take some real delight in kicking someone when they are down and have even further than that in this case. Well done that man or woman in the HB department in Anglesey what a disgusting apology for a human being you are and hope you sleep well at night

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