I have just received an email pointing out an article on the BBC website by Mark Easton. The article is titled "Map of the Week: Homelessness crisis? What homelessness crisis?". It appears that Mr Easton has seen the government statistics (our old friends the infamous P1e's) and on the basis of these has not questioned the truth behind them but has just followed them blindly. I hope to correct some of his observations here.
Homelessness is not falling, what is happening is that councils are doing all they can to prevent people from making homelessness applications thats all. People are still becoming homeless, but all that now happens is that they are being forced into accepting rent deposit scheme properties or other housing option schemes, but of course this is what is wanted by central government because they do not count towards the homeless statistics. The fact that a local authority believes that the applicant meets sufficient of the homelessness legislation to place them via an "option" and pay out deposits on this case doesn't matter, all that matters is that the statistics go down. Of course the criteria that local authority uses before issuing an "Option" is if the applicant is eligible, homeless, priority need not intentionally homeless and has a local connection precisely the same criteria as the homelessness legislation. As I have mentioned previously on my blog, that in many councils "Gatekeeping" is at the best tolerated and at the very worst actively encouraged by management.
The view that Mr Easton gave in his article: "Look at the main reason people gave for finding themselves without a roof over their head: 38% said it was because parents, relatives or friends were unable or unwilling to accommodate them. It is far from ideal, but perhaps families are putting up with surplus children and grandchildren because they know how frightening it is to be homeless in a recession." Well if councils were following the letter of the law and accommodating those people who were homeless and met the homelessness criteria then there shouldn't be a need for families to live in overcrowded situations. Also its quite easy to speak to the parents and advise them its better to keep young Pete or Katie at home for a few weeks until an option property becomes available rather than having them going into bed and breakfast accommodation. Councils will turn a blind eye to issues that the property is not suitable accommodation due to overcrowding as long as it prevents a homelessness application being taken. Of course had a family been accepted as homeless and was asked to remain at their friends or family's property until temporary accommodation was found that would be illegal, but as its a "prevention" case they are asked to remain in there.
In respect of the apparent reduction of those people in temporary accommodation, let me outline how this is being done. How homeless people, particularly those with children can be gently nudged, even coerced, into giving up their temporary accommodation and having the homelessness duty discharged on their cases. An example of this would be a family who have been residing in the same temporary accommodation for a few years. Now the lease of the property may becoming to an end or the council wants to hand the property back for some other reason. The homeless applicant will be notified that they will have to leave this property in the near future. Now pay attention out there and watch what happens when the family are interviewed:
"Hello Mr Jones thanks for coming into the office. As you aware the lease is coming to an end on your property, we can look for alternative temporary accommodation for you, but this may be some miles away and I'm aware that your children attend school close to where you live. What I would recommend is that you go on our option scheme so that you can remain in this area. You don't want to go go to all the bother of finding a new doctor or school when you can stay in this area on the option scheme.Yes we do close your homelessness case but on our permanent housing list you'll be treated the same as if you was in temporary accommodation, even though your a private rented tenant".
Surprise surprise those people who have children at school, or are worried about being too far from their health professionals or friends and family will jump at the Option scheme. I accept that some homelessness applicants are happy to move into Option scheme accommodation but they are not all being given the full picture all that matters is reducing the number of temporary accommodation properties.