Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656

Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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Shelter report - a response

May 21 2009
A day centre worker reveals the ways HPUs fob applicants off Dear Editor,

I read recently (News, The Pavement, Issue 29) with interest the article about 'gatekeeping'. No surprises there, unfortunately.

When working as a project worker in a Westminster day centre, I would regularly send homeless men, who qualified for rehousing in the borough, down to the HPU (or its snazzy new title, Housing Options). By qualified, I mean not only those with good connection to Westminster, but those considered "priority need". Apart from exceptional cases, a surly receptionist would attempt to usher them away with an outdated list of local hostels.

I would advise them to demand to make an application as it is their right under the Homeless Act. Even if they got to see a Housing officer and were refused housing, the HPU were very sporadic about giving failed applicants a letter called a "Section 184" notification. This lists reasons why the council do not consider them to be eligible. Only when the person had returned to the day centre with one of these letters, could I then trawl through the codes of guidance to challenge why the Council had failed in their duty and appeal for a review.

The Council would, in a lot of cases, relent.

They still had one more trick up their sleeves, and farmed people out to large B&Bs, usually in the East End, that they used for interim/temporary housing. Many times people would find the conditions and distance from their locality and services too unfavourable, would quit and return to the street or night shelter. Thus the council were able to discharge their duty to rehouse even the most vulnerable.

I believe that the council can keep people in these places for up to eight weeks before they give a final decision to rehouse. It appears to be a good way of thinning the numbers.


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