Last year I accompanied my client to Housing Options to make a homeless person’s application. I felt it was necessary to go with him, because he was being subject to gatekeeping by the local authority, and is very vulnerable with severe depression and PTSD. The client had gone to Housing Options four times previously. Although they had reason to believe that he was homeless and eligible, and had a duty to make enquiries, they had failed to do this. The local authority were also avoiding my questions about why they had not issued him with a decision notice to say whether they accepted a duty towards him or not. At Z2K, we see many clients who tell us they have not managed to make a homeless person’s application to their local authority and going to Housing Options made it clear to me how they manage to gatekeep so effectively.
First of all, we were told by a security guard to take a ticket, and had to wait about half an hour to be called to the reception and were asked why we were there. I told the woman that we wanted to make a homelessness application, and she asked whether it was to make a homelessness application or a housing application. She then proceeded to ask questions about where he was staying (on the streets) and what his circumstances were. I handed over a medical letter and waited for an hour to see someone for an appointment. The client told me that the last time he had got to this stage, his appointment had only lasted 10 minutes, and he was then sent away without a decision letter.
Our appointment was with a woman who said she was from customer services. She went through questions about his situation for about half an hour, and then said she had to book him in with a caseworker as she could not make a decision and there were no appointments for him today. At this point I told her we needed a decision letter, and if they had reason to believe he was homeless and priority need they needed to place him in interim accommodation. She asked us to come back that afternoon, and finally the client was issued with a section 188 offer of accommodation.
I have no doubt that if I hadn’t attended with the client, they would have turned him away again and prevented him making a homeless application even though he was clearly priority need. The council accepted that he was priority need after review. It is concerning how many people they turn away without fully enquiring into their circumstances, many of whom will be eligible to be assisted.