Thank you to everyone who has tweeted and retweeted our image to Southwark’s housing councillor @steviecryan and Southwark council in support of our member.
After not responding to the many tweets, Stephanie Cryan tweeted that she uses twitter for personal use but that we can contact her on her work email address which is: firstname.lastname@example.org Although she has previously responded to ‘work’ issues on her twitter account before.
A number of supporters have already sent her an email expressing their concern that our member, who has suffered 33 years of domestic violence, is not considered vulnerable enough for a full homeless duty.
Please do send an email expressing your concern and support for our member and requesting that Southwark reverse their appalling decision and ensure that our member receives a full homeless duty and ultimately the secure council housing that she desperately needs. Let her know if you’re a Southwark resident, but please contact her even if you’re not. Remember to cc us in haslemail[at]gmail.com And do keep on tweeting too, because this makes this important issue public.
Our member is deeply demoralised by the degrading treatment she has received when accessing housing help from the council. We know this is not the only example of survivors of domestic violence, and other homeless people, being failed by the council. We have offered to meet with Stephanie Cryan to talk about how the homelessness process can be improved. But how can we meet with the council whilst our member faces homelessness and the council deem that this is acceptable?
We cannot let Southwark council get away with this poor treatment of a homeless survivor of domestic violence.
If you’ve emailed Stephanie, I imagine you may have received the response pasted below. In case you want to respond back to this unsatisfactory response, then I’ve pasted what I replied – feel free to use.
Thank you for your email.
The safety of residents is a top priority for the council and we take domestic abuse extremely seriously. We have a specific domestic abuse strategy for helping those affected, and communications campaigns to raise awareness and encourage reporting. We help people with their specific needs, offering support, a sanctuary scheme which helps victims remain in their homes by installing security measures (new locks, fire safety letter boxes, panic rooms, etc.), help with moving to temporary accommodation, providing protection where it is needed, and work alongside the police and Southwark Advocacy and Support Service (SASS) delivered by Solace Women’s Aid.
Domestic abuse takes many forms and is a complex issue which is unique to each person who is affected by it. Statistics alone do not give the whole picture. We aim to reduce the risk of harm to a person in a wide-ranging, varied and bespoke way, not just by looking at their housing situation and moving someone away, which doesn’t always resolve the issue. All housing applications are assessed according to the person’s circumstances. Housing is in extremely high demand and vulnerable women who have children or are pregnant are prioritised, for example. We will continue to support all victims of domestic abuse in ways proven to be successful using the experience we have gained in years of tackling this emotive issue. In this particular case we did offer accommodation in the private rented sector and that offer still holds should it be accepted.
There are very few empty properties in the borough (although it may appear that way, and of those, most are used for temporary accommodation.
In 2015/16, the council has seen a 25% increase in the number of referrals our domestic abuse specialist service receives (from 1,324 to 1,664) and we are investing much more money in the funding we provide – this has almost doubled since 2010. The work we are doing with our specialist provider Southwark Women’s Aid is having a substantial positive impact on the lives of those affected.
Both myself and council officers have been in touch with HASL on several occasions requesting a meeting so that we can discuss issues they are finding and to try to work together, however to date they have not taken us up on this.
I hope this helps provide a more rounded picture for you but thank you for raising such an important issue.
Cllr Stephanie Cryan
Thank you for your response. I’m afraid it does not address some of the issues I raised.
Whilst pregnant women and those with children do often have an automatic homeless duty – housing law says that local authorities must accept a homeless duty to those who are vulnerable/’priority need’. 33 years of domestic abuse surely counts someone as vulnerable? So she should have a full homeless duty. So the issue is not other categories of people having priority – as the law allows you to give this woman a homeless duty alongside women who are pregnant and have children. The issue is why Southwark council think someone who has suffered 33 years of domestic abuse does not count as vulnerable? I would be interested to know your response.
You state that there are very few empty properties in the borough – but I did not raise this as an issue. Homelessness law states that a local authority must provide housing to people who qualify. The local authorities housing situation/empty properties is not relevant. This seems like you have copy and pasted a response to Sisters Uncut who have raised empty buildings in their communications with you.
Whilst you state that housing is not the only issue to be dealt with when supporting survivors of domestic violence, which is absolutely true, housing is a key issue for them. This HASL member in this case approached Southwark for a homeless duty, so it is clear that for her, accessing secure, council housing is a priority – and the council are denying her this when it is completely within their power and discretion to provide this vital service.
As you know, Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth are a group made up of homeless people and others facing poor housing situations. They are all volunteers, so this is why they often cannot respond quickly to meeting requests. Furthermore, I think they made it clear that they cannot meet until their member has guaranteed safe housing which is totally reasonable. It would be pretty difficult to have a productive meeting when their member is facing homelessness.
I hope you’ll be able to respond to my original question – why Southwark council do not deem a survivor of 33 years of abuse as vulnerable and therefore provide her with a full homeless duty?
Yours sincerely, xxxxxxx