In the past two weeks, HASL has supported two families to stop evictions after social services told them that they would no longer provide accommodation for them. Both the families had nowhere else to go, yet social services decided to withdraw the only accommodation the families had. Social services were housing these families because they were homeless – why were social services making the families homeless again?
In both cases, HASL members visited the families on the day of the eviction to provide eviction resistance support – cramming together into the tiny, and in one case, rat infested temporary accommodation to inform the landlord that they wouldn’t be leaving as they had nowhere else to go. Section 6 of the Criminal Law Act 1977 means that no one can force entry into an occupied home and HASL were there to support the families to enforce this. In both cases too, the attempts by a landlord to evict them would have been illegal as they did not have the court order required for an eviction for these types of temporary accommodation. Social services were taking no notice as families in their care faced illegal evictions.
Supporting K and her family last week, facing eviction as Lambeth social services refused to provide accommodation any longer for the family, lawyers we had contacted the previous day managed to negotiate an extra week with social services so the eviction was averted. Yet, when we called social services that morning with K to see what the situation was, her caseworker had still been refusing to extend the accommodation and callously said that putting K’s children into care was the only thing they would do. This is often used by social services as a nasty threat – the cost of putting children into care is extremely high and therefore social services would be reluctant to do this, but they use it to scare the families and to stop them from demanding the support they need from social services. The caseworker was overruled and the family were allowed to stay for a further week, after not only being subjected to the threat of eviction, but also the splitting up of their family at the hands of social services.
This week, we were contacted by S and her family, facing eviction after Southwark social services said they would no longer provide accommodation for the family. Again, a group of people from HASL went to be there to provide support for when the landlord arrived and to liaise with social services to extend the accommodation. The family were living in one room of a huge building full of other rooms that were being let out to homeless families. Someone from the business came to try and conduct an eviction. They seemed surprised to be met with resistance, informing us that “we do this all the time” (illegal evictions without a court order) and refused to listen to the legal information – section 6 and his need for a court order – that we were telling him. “We wouldn’t be able to run our business if people don’t leave” the man told us. His poverty profiteering business model is not under threat as he would like us to think – for every single room here, he was getting £400 a week. Liaising with Southwark social services, we managed to get them to agree a further month in the accommodation, and so the staff of the slum accommodation were appeased.
Collective action meant that K and S’s families were able to resist evictions and keep a roof over their heads. These are important and concrete wins.
Both these situations raise important issues about the ways social services are treating people and also the disgusting and exploitative temporary accommodation being provided to homeless people – where illegal evictions are standard practice.