Birmingham Poverty Truth Commission.
Case Study 2017
Access, Birmingham Homelessness Services.
Male aged 21 Female aged 20.
Arrived at Housing Office, to apply for emergency accommodation as a couple. After taking a ticket from the machine, they sit down and wait approximately 45minutes.
Their names, addresses and work/benefit details are taken and I.D is asked for and provided. They are seen together, but it is explained that they are not eligible to be classed and housed as a couple due to the female only being 20.
The Under 21 policy is upsetting for them but also starts to push against common sense when they are both asked to make individual phone calls to a support agency to gain an appointment. The use of telephone is provided, and they are told to attend within the same day.
The venue is difficult to find. After a long wait, they are spoken to together and then asked to sit back down; this is then repeated. Names, address and I.D are asked for again. Phone calls to both mothers are made by Support Agency staff. The female is asked where she works, and the male is not asked anything in regard to ‘area of preferability’. The interviewer uses information on his computer screen to name a house they can view. He makes a telephone call and makes an appointment for them both to attend within the same day. With an address, a mobile phone number and a print out of google maps, the couple continue to the house.
They wait half an hour for the lady to arrive. She apologises for being late and explains that she is not the direct landlord.
“The house was disgusting”
The female is placed on the downstairs floor with a double bed and the male is placed in a room upstairs with a single bed. The Under 21 policy is pushing against common sense again as they both could have been allocated the downstairs room. The female is disconcerted by some of the residents on her floor. The male and female are not comfortable with this arrangement.
Toilet roll, toiletries, towels, washing powder, food and beverages are not supplied.
Already placed inside the rooms are bags of fresh sheets for the beds. Yet it is obvious that no sign of cleaning up from the last, or multiple previous occupants has taken place. Both rooms are dirty, the double room especially with left over belongings, clothing, underwear, perfume bottles, men’s deodorants cans. The window sill is, “filthy and cluttered”. The carpet in the downstairs room has been walked threadbare into the floor and is dirty. The wardrobe has garments hanging inside and the chest of drawers has broken drawers and is dirty.
The radiator in the downstairs room, is on full and it is not possible to turn it down as it has a broken knob. The atmosphere is too hot. Turning off the heating at the thermostat display is followed by the discovery that it has been turned back on by the other occupants of the house.
During the tour of the house the lady describes a cleaning rota that the couple are expected to take part in. Yet it is completely obvious that no sign of cleaning has taken place in the house for weeks. The bathroom is on the downstairs floor and accessed by walking through the kitchen. It smells “disgusting”, with wet clothes in the bath and on the floor. All the bathroom furniture is dirty.
The kitchen is also dirty, especially the cooker, with multiple oil residue and stale pieces of food. The fridge is dirty. All appliances are in a bad state. There is no front on the drawer of the washing machine. When the couple are in the back garden, they see through the kitchen window a mouse, eating left over food, on the cooker top. They do not cook anything during their stay.
The back garden is full of bike parts. At the top of the stairs there is a hoover, a pram and an ironing board.
The female is asked to pay £75 a week rent and £15 a week utilities. The male is asked to pay £40 a week rent and £15 a week utilities.
The couple leave after 2 nights having never met the direct landlord.
Housing and council tax benefit is not applicable to Under25’s. Recently, this has been restored, in Parliament on 29th March 2018. (Featured in the Independent, by Rob Merrick.) https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/housing-benefit-young-people-restored-universal-credit-homelessness-david-cameron-a8279301.html
The most offensive ‘truth’ of the experience is ‘the state of the place’ compared with the attitude of the person pointing out a cleaning schedule to the couple. There is need for more cleanliness to be provided by the direct landlord before they can then request and expect reciprocation. A paid cleaner or assistance from outside charities/volunteers might be a way forward.
All furniture and appliances should be in good working order. In this house, they weren’t.
Think, Network, Help, Kind.
This case study was authored by Karen Smith on 13/04/18 for Birmingham Poverty Truth Commission, highlighting a personal truth by a couple known to Karen, of experience of being homeless. Birmingham Poverty Truth hears stories of both positive and negative experiences of accessing housing.