Necessity Still Breeds Ingenuity - Archive of SQUALL MAGAZINE 1992-2006

Government's Homelessness Review

We Lose

In one of the most socially careless policy statements this Government has published, priority need homeless people are to lose the right to permanent housing.

Squall 6, Spring 1994, pg. 36.

According to a Government Green Paper there is to be a major shake up in the way public housing is to be allocated to homeless people.

In the words of the document:

"The Government's aim is that a decent home should be within the reach of every family."

So far so good and then:

"This does not mean that everyone seeking rented accommodation should expect the state to provide for them on demand."

Oh, so how should a family with no home house themselves?

"Establishing a home - particularly as a place in which to raise a family - is a matter for which married couples want to feel personally responsible."

So the Government is now saying ‘do it yourself’, whereas previously there was a statutory duty for local authorities to house homeless people in ‘priority need’ eg. families. What kind of a policy for homelessness is this?

"The role of government is to ensure that a range of housing opportunities are available, with support for those who need it; to ensure that everyone is aware of the range of opportunities; and to provide a safety net in time of crisis.”

Yes, yes, yes but where are these opportunities and safety nets? One of them was squatting, another was buying a van and living on the road!

But the Government evidently believes that someone somewhere will be able to reap the marvellous opportunities talked about but seldom seen. The Green Paper has the audacity to suggest:

"Within this framework, individuals should be free to choose between the alternatives available, and should endeavour to meet their own housing needs."

And what are we free to choose? Listed below is a precis of the Green Paper's cornucopia of housing opportunities.

1. To remove the statutory right of priority need homeless people to permanent accommodation. The Government claim that priority need homeless people are jumping the housing waiting list

2. To offer temporary accommodation (perhaps 6 months only) to priority need homeless people only if they have no roof whatsoever. This means that if your family is about to be homeless in a week's time, you have to wait until that time to apply for emergency accommodation. The homeless family will not be entitled to any accommodation until their paperwork has been entered on the day they no longer have any roof and then processed by the local authority.

3. Local Authorities must start using private rented accommodation to house any of the families that satisfy the above criteria. They may now do so by housing the homeless out of the relevant borough, something that Westminster Council were called "unlawful and improper" for doing in the late eighties (See 'Westmaladminister Council’ in this issue).