Some Cases Just Get Close To Your Own Homeless Story

Crushing Homeless Case Lands On My Laptop During Sexual Violence Awareness Month

This year and the last quarter of 2023 has been a real time of reflection, taking on board everything and I mean everything from the last 8 years, from homelessness to campaigner and advocate for others. Concluding a second trial for historic child sexual abuse, I was the child and victim. Still very much in recovery and healing, which takes time. But one thing I am grateful for are the connections I make with other people, their stories are their own to share and I hope day this brave survivor, even warrior does just that. 

I was tagged in a facebook post as is always the case, it was a picture of two dogs, initially I thought it was an error, the last ditch community plea from the writer said

“Hi there. This is a last ditch, desperate attempt to find a property to rent. I’m single parent of two teenagers and full-time carer to one and therefore on Universal Credit since 2020. We received a ‘no-fault’ eviction notice (Section 21) a year ago and we are being evicted from our home with nowhere to go.

We have two emotional support dogs (see pic) who are key to our everyday wellbeing and are well trained and cared for. They go everywhere with us. The Housing department at B&H council have been unable to help us and I’m currently considering a caravan because there is literally nothing else!
I’m just sending a shout out to see if anyone has a property we could rent, preferably three bedrooms but would accept two.”

Issues with Homelessness Assessment and Personal Housing Plan. Council Under Scrutiny

The only thing people really have are rights and there are quite a few, yes granted the system still has flaws, but no family especially those like this family should be tested to such limits and though no fault of their own. 

Under the Homelessness Reduction Act Councils have a duty to prevent homelessness, using this case as an example, here is a list of things the council could/should do under the Prevention Duty:

  1. Thorough Assessment:

    • BHCC should have Conducted a comprehensive assessment of the household’s circumstances, taking into account vulnerabilities, disabilities, and ongoing support needs.
    • In my clients case, the council should consider the complex PTSD, the children’s autism and ADHD, and the history of abuse.
  2. Engagement with Support Services:

    • BHCC / HOUSING Should Have Actively engaged with support services such as CAPA and functional family therapy to understand the specific needs and challenges faced by the household. This was a very long process but I have seen evidence of attendance at some Case Review Sessions. 
    • Consider the effectiveness of current support services, and if necessary, explore alternative services that better address the unique situation.
  3. Regular Reassessments of PHP:

    • BHCC should have collaborated with the household to create a detailed and personalised Personal Housing Plan (PHP).
    • Ensure regular reviews of the PHP, considering feedback from the household and making adjustments as necessary.
    • The council should assess the effectiveness of the PHP in addressing the family’s housing needs and overall well-being.
    • In this case: The council has not adequately collaborated with the household, particularly Mum, to create a detailed and personalised PHP. The assessment and PHP in this case seem to lack specificity regarding the family’s unique circumstances, such as the impact of complex PTSD, autism, ADHD and other severe things on their housing needs.
  4. Duty to Secure Suitable Accommodation:

    • If homelessness cannot be prevented, the council has a duty to secure suitable accommodation for the household.
    • The accommodation provided should take into consideration the specific needs and vulnerabilities identified during the assessment process. offering them a place out of area which can cause safeguarding issues is not suitable in the slightest and with almost one years notice to offer this so close to eviction date, is very poor indeed.
  6. Timely Communication:

    • Maintain open and transparent communication with the household, ensuring that they are informed of the council’s actions, decisions, and available support services.
    • In mums case, considering her concerns about daughters functioning and the effectiveness of certain support strategies. – None of this has really happened my client in fact has been triggered by the complete lack of communication. its really outrageous way to team the citizens they serve and flout the law. Having to continuously recount traumatic and triggering events is simply unacceptale in a sociey with so much awareness. This is a great concern. 

Challenges Faced: A Victim's Lived Experience

There were so called new reforms which have been widely publicised around changes to the system and how they deal with this and impacts on victims. One of the reforms was about Trauma Informed Approaches which essentially ensures were the victims do not have the accountability to collect evidence and organise the whole thing.  

Having experience of trauma informed care, I would say the service is still broken and not fit for purpose.

We have a human right to a life and this system is making people question their life and whether to continue with all this trauma and triggering, we also want peace and our right to a family life, free of this disruption. I live with CPTSD and well the way this case has gone has reminded me so much of my own homeless experience. 

Building a Trauma-Informed Housing Options Team

  1. Streamlined Communication: Ensure a single point of contact for victims, reducing the burden of dealing with multiple requests and agencies. This central coordinator could facilitate the collection of necessary information, alleviating stress on victims. 

  2. Proactive Gathering of Evidence: Implement a system where the Housing Officer takes more responsibility for obtaining information directly from relevant professionals and agencies, sparing victims the additional trauma of collecting and submitting evidence themselves, if they cannot do this, people should be offered an advocate. Possibly a pilot project for Independant advocates with lived experience. 

  3. Trauma-Informed Training: Mandate trauma-informed training for all front line housing staff including management involved in handling cases. This would foster a better understanding of the challenges victims face and ensure a more empathetic and supportive approach throughout the process. Ideally this training will be in person and from those with lived experience and not via online learning.

  4. Reasonable Adjustments and Accommodations: Prioritise and implement reasonable adjustments promptly, addressing the specific needs of individuals with disabilities. Ignoring such requests is a violation of basic rights and exacerbates the trauma victims endure. Accommodation Options should be provided to victims, enforcing a controlling and hostile pressuring approach toward homeless applicants really triggers and causes people distress due to unsuitable homeless accommodation / discharge of housing duty offers.

  5. Timely Case Resolution: Establish strict timelines for case resolution to prevent prolonged stress on victims. This includes setting deadlines for each step of the process, ensuring swift and efficient handling of assessments, and administrative tasks.

  6. Reform The Frontline Staff: Introduce a council policy a UK first for a local authority similar to the disability job guarantee scheme, but for those with Lived Experience. Target and Recruit Experts in Homelessness, Those who have lived, survived and moved on from homelessness.

  7. Holistic Support Services: Recognise the importance of ongoing support services for victims and allocate funds to cover comprehensive therapeutic approaches, including mental health, physical well-being, and any associated costs of recovery, working closer with our health authorities and third sector organisations. 

  8. Regular Review of Reforms: Conduct periodic reviews of the implemented reforms to assess their effectiveness and make adjustments accordingly. This ensures an adaptive system that continuously improves based on real-world experiences.

The Current State of Play with the family

This article has been written because of continuous cases where I see maladministration from Brighton & Hove City Council and one day this will come back to bite and embarrass this city. I was only speaking to a Housing Ombudsman source recently to know how easy it is to get them to turn a blind eye. But thankfully there is more than one of them and sadly in this case its resulted in a compliant to the Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman. 

My client was evicted yesterday on Wed 6th March. Bailiffs attended in what was a real trying time for my client, she feels the prevention work done here has been shocking. They are now in a one bedroom flat awaiting another Direct Let. Could they be back here again next year as they have been so many times before… Its triggering CPTSD. I Disagree with the outcome, but ultimately the family have been forced to take or be considered intentionally homeless. 

Have you Had Similar Issues? What have your experiences with Brighton and Hove Housing Options Team been like?

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