“Cathy Come Home”, Ken Loach’s iconic and critically acclaimed film, was first broadcast in 1966. It was a shocking depiction of poverty and homelessness. You may be surprised to find out that, over 50 years later, THERE ARE NOW ALMOST 85,000 HOUSEHOLDS, INCLUDING 126,000 CHILDREN LIVING IN EMERGENCY ACCOMMODATION IN ENGLAND – the highest level in more than a decade.
The causes behind these statistics run deep, with high rental costs, a significant shortage of social housing and low wages being major contributory factors. Some of the people we see in Citizens Advice Waverley are working all hours but struggling to hold down a job while having nowhere stable to live. The Observer recently analysed government figures for 2018/19. They found that more than a quarter of households facing a homelessness crisis and applying for council support had a household member who was in paid employment.
Are you, or someone you know, in this position and at risk of becoming homeless? Despite Waverley district’s reputation as being a relatively affluent area, some residents are facing a housing crisis. Volunteer advisers in Citizens Advice Waverley can provide practical advice about housing options. About 8% of the people we saw in the year to August 2019 experienced housing issues and we supported 166 people who were threatened with homelessness as well as a further 45 who were actually homeless.
Citizens Advice advisers can explain the new laws introduced this year to prevent homelessness. Councils, for example, are now required to take preventative measures where households are at risk of homelessness and relieve it when it occurs. You can apply to the council to get somewhere to live if you’re legally homeless – that is, if you have nowhere to live in the UK or abroad – or will become homeless within 8 weeks. How much help you get depends on your circumstances.
When you speak to the council, you’ll need to explain why you’re homeless or about to become homeless. It’s worth writing down what you plan to say first. If you need help to do this, contact your local Citizens Advice office.
Kate did just that. When she dropped into one of our offices, she and her partner had recently split up meaning that she had become homeless. Kate worked as a shop assistant but couldn’t afford a deposit to move into private accommodation. Kate had lived in foster care in the area until she was 18 and now, 2 years later, she was sofa surfing in a friend’s home.
One of our advisers explored Kate’s options with her. She was happy for us to liaise with the Council’s Housing Options office. We made an application for homelessness relief duties for them to put together a personal housing plan, which could include help with rent in advance and a deposit. We explained that Kate was in priority need because she was only 20 and had previously been living locally in care. Housing Options offered Kate a place in emergency housing as a short-term measure which she accepted.
Later, Kate returned to Citizens Advice where we checked her benefits entitlements and provided advice about looking for better paid employment. After a while, with her improved employment situation, Kate moved into a housing association property, a place she could call home.
*This is a composite story of a client’s problem, names and events have been altered for confidentiality purposes.
If you or your family are worried about becoming homeless or something else. Don’t put it off – Citizens Advice Waverley can almost certainly help. For free, independent, confidential advice call:
0344 848 7969
Citizens Advice Waverley is a registered charity. You can help local people by making a donation at https://waverleycab.org.uk/fundraising . Your donation stays local and will ensure we are here to help local people when they most need it.
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