Last week, we occupied Southwark council’s HQ on Tooley street in support of our members F & L to demand that they get the full homeless duties they desperately need and to stop L’s imminent eviction. We also wanted to highlight the poor treatment that survivors of domestic violence face when trying to get safe, secure housing.
F & L are two long-term HASL members who are both homeless survivors of domestic violence. They also both suffer from significant medical problems which affect them on a daily basis. However, despite submitting strong medical evidence and other supporting evidence, the council have deemed them not vulnerable enough to qualify for a homeless duty.
Of course, all survivors of domestic violence should be considered vulnerable and qualify for a homeless duty. Homelessness law needs to be much better, it does not do enough to protect and house vulnerable homeless people. In our group, we constantly try to highlight, organise and campaign on this. No one should be put through a degrading vulnerability test. Everyone needs and deserve good quality, safe, secure housing.
But Southwark council cannot shift the blame here. Their actions and treatment of our members within the current inadequate homelessness law cannot be justified either.
- In the face of so much evidence, how can Southwark council deem our members not vulnerable?
- Why have our members faced repeated eviction attempts by the council which has made their health even worse?
- How can Southwark council justify the appalling statements and misinformation in their decision letters about the women? As well as the entire homelessness process being traumatising for the women?
When we visited the town hall in support of F & L this poor treatment continued as we faced deeply rude treatment from senior male housing staff. Our member L was left ‘reeling’ by their behaviour and attitude to our group of women, some of whom are survivors of domestic violence. We are women dealing with housing problems, doing child-care, dealing with medical problems, doing paid-work and supporting our members.
The housing manager told a supporter that L must accept private accommodation (an area was written on a scrap of paper – an area which is away from L’s support networks). We explained this would end her homelessness appeal which will be heard in court. He replied that it would not.
Either he does not understand homelessness law, or he was lying to us. Both are worrying.
Despite our best efforts and determined efforts from L’s solicitors who repeatedly requested accommodation as their client was at ‘high-risk’ if made street homeless – the council went ahead with the eviction the following morning.
We will continue to support our members with their cases to get the safe, secure, quality council housing in their local communities that they need. We will continue to fight to get better treatment for all survivors.
Thank you to everyone on twitter who showed their support, the response was great and boosted us all.
Thank you to South East London Sisters Uncut for their support.
And thanks to South West Londoner for a good write up here