Landlord? Tenant? Want to have a chat with me?

Every 11 minutes, one household in England & Wales loses its home. So I decided to write a book about renting and eviction. It is going to be down-to-earth and simple, not focused on drama, but on practicality. That’s why I want to talk with landlords and with tenants.

I will change your name and the book will not have any details that could make you identifiable. I want to make the topic more accessible for everyone, and I also want to show that eviction can be very hard on landlords too. Are you willing to have a chat with me? We can do this on Skype, if you want.

houseI want to talk with:

  • Landlords who are currently evicting tenants;
  • Landlords who have evicted tenants;
  • Landlords who considered evicting tenants but found a way to work with their tenants so that they didn’t have to evict them;
  • Tenants who got into rent arrears but solved the situation and worked with their landlord;
  • Tenants who were evicted and got back onto their feet because the council rehoused them or who were homeless for a little while but managed to get off the street;
  • Tenants who were evicted and later found out that they could have avoided eviction if they had known then what they know now;
  • You. Because you are reading this.

I will let you read what I wrote about you before I publish it, and if you decide you don’t want your story published after all, all you have to do is tell me. I may not publish everyone’s story.

You can contact me on 075 1826 1184 or at the ID angelina.souren on Skype.

 

Vulnerability, in practice

It is strongly influenced by the degree to which a housing officer is able to identify with the applicant.

Why? Everyone has need for safety. The housing officer too has a deep-down need to believe that if something happened to him or her, he or she would be helped.

That’s where blame comes in. Judgment. It enables people to say “it could never happen to me”. It reassures them. Housing officers after all are human beings too and they deal with that vulnerability all day long. They are reminded of their own vulnerability all day long.

That’s why the law needs to be clear.

Something similar happens when someone who needs food asks for food. That’s also why politicians and Lords sometimes get it wrong. It happens when they have to be able to blame people for their hardship in order to continue to feel secure themselves, as mere human beings.

You can sometimes very clearly see when people don’t (want to) identify with someone else. It shows in instances when they talk about the person, not with the person, and speak as if the person is not even there, or cannot hear them talk.

It is never going to happen and it clashes with what the law says, but it might be more useful to let homeless persons decide who is the most vulnerable among them and among those who are threatened with homelessness.

If you are looking for the honest admission of personal vulnerability, talk with people who are street-homeless (but not from a position of power!). With that admission of personal vulnerability comes the ready admission that there are some among them who are more vulnerable.

It is likely based on the same idea. When you’re out on the streets, you have to believe that others would help you if things were to get much worse for you.

Homelessness, housing duty and vulnerability

courthouse

Today is the third of three days at the Supreme Court that focus on homelessness, housing duty and vulnerability (or rather, priority).

The three cases are:
– Hotak (Appellant) v London Borough of Southwark (Respondent)
– Johnson (Appellant) v Solihull MBC (Respondent)
– Kanu (AP) (Appellant) v London Borough of Southwark (Respondent)
(Interveners in all three cases: Equality and Human Rights Commission, Shelter, Crisis and the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.)

What is it all about? Predominantly 189(1)(c) in the Housing Act 1996:

189 Priority need for accommodation.

(1) The following have a priority need for accommodation—

(a) a pregnant woman or a person with whom she resides or might reasonably be expected to reside;

(b) a person with whom dependent children reside or might reasonably be expected to reside;

(c) a person who is vulnerable as a result of old age, mental illness or handicap or physical disability or other special reason, or with whom such a person resides or might reasonably be expected to reside;

(d )a person who is homeless or threatened with homelessness as a result of an emergency such as flood, fire or other disaster.

(2) The Secretary of State may by order—

(a) specify further descriptions of persons as having a priority need for accommodation, and

(b) amend or repeal any part of subsection (1).

(3) Before making such an order the Secretary of State shall consult such associations representing relevant authorities, and such other persons, as he considers appropriate.

(4) No such order shall be made unless a draft of it has been approved by resolution of each House of Parliament.

Hotak is a pretty straightforward case, at first sight; the two other cases are less clear. Hotak concerns two brothers, one of which (Sifatullah) would certainly be considered vulnerable if the other one (Ezatullah) had not said that he would look after his brother. The brothers were living in a friend’s flat in Southwark, but told to leave because of overcrowding. Ezatullah’s immigration status at the time, however, made him ineligible for housing assistance.

Southwark did give the brothers temporary housing while it made its mind up. It decided that Sifatullah was unintentionally homeless, and eligible for assistance, yet did not consider him vulnerable in terms of in priority need of housing because his brother was looking after him. This is where the case went off the rails.

If Sifatullah were a pregnant woman, unintentionally homeless (as it is called), and eligible for assistance, whether the person with whom she resides or might reasonably be expected to reside supports her or not makes no difference, as one of the lawyers highlighted on Monday.

Another one pointed out that the law does not contain an element of comparison. A person’s own condition makes him or her relatively vulnerable when on the street, and the law had the intention of preventing and eliminating all homelessness. This would mean that a) there is no such thing as “an ordinary street-homeless person” (used by Southwark to compare Sifatullah against) and b) one could say that being homeless in itself already points toward a person being less able to fend for himself or herself, as homelessness is not the norm in this country.

It looks like the practice of the application of this legislation – carried out by the decision-making housing officer – has been moving toward comparing a blind applicant with street-homeless blind applicants, deaf applicants with street-homeless deaf applicants, mentally ill applicants with street-homeless mentally ill applicants, applicants with substance abuse with homeless people with substance abuse.

More specifically, practice seems to be more and more relying on the premise that all homeless persons are, almost by definition, street-homeless mentally ill and/or substance abusers and/or physically ill, deserving no special protection (in Johnson, for instance). The law was not intended that way. The law does not even say anything like this.

The pregnant woman, however, is never compared with other pregnant women to determine her vulnerability. The same applies to any persons who have lost their home in a flood.

“Ideas about vulnerability are perhaps most often applied by those in more powerful positions to define those in less powerful ones.” (Kate Brown)

When are you homeless?

From the Housing Act 1996:

175 Homelessness and threatened homelessness.

house(1) A person is homeless if he has no accommodation available for his occupation, in the United Kingdom or elsewhere, which he—

(a) is entitled to occupy by virtue of an interest in it or by virtue of an order of a court,

(b) has an express or implied licence to occupy, or

(c) occupies as a residence by virtue of any enactment or rule of law giving him the right to remain in occupation or restricting the right of another person to recover possession.

(2) A person is also homeless if he has accommodation but—

(a) he cannot secure entry to it, or

(b) it consists of a moveable structure, vehicle or vessel designed or adapted for human habitation and there is no place where he is entitled or permitted both to place it and to reside in it.

(3) A person shall not be treated as having accommodation unless it is accommodation which it would be reasonable for him to continue to occupy.

(4) A person is threatened with homelessness if it is likely that he will become homeless within 28 days.

Food business regulations

Basking in the sunshine, I started chomping down on my sandwich. A mug of French roast coffee was standing on the table next to me. The next moment brought a rude awakening. I had bit down on something hard. It turned out to be thick glass shard. I was lucky because though it was pointy, it had no dangerously sharp edges that would have instantly injured me. An inspection of the pot containing the jam for my sandwich revealed no damage. The shard had come from the contents of the jar.

The year was 1995, the location my home in Florida. I called the jam company who asked me for some production number on the jar. I later got a letter back with an apology. The letter included a coupon for a free jar of the same jam, but in all honesty, I was not in a hurry to go out and get more jam. More importantly, I also received a detailed description of how the glass shard had gotten into the jam (including the procedure aimed to prevent this). A little explanation can go a long way.

ice creamThis morning, I read about a boy who had bitten down on a glass shard while eating ice cream in a local ice cream establishment. He was bleeding profusely and needed stitches. The owner of the ice cream establishment was prosecuted. The fines were substantial.

Not only had the business failed to implement simple safety standards, it had also neglected to register the business as a food business with the local authorities, among other things.

The business owner seems to have been entirely unaware of these requirements. It surprises me because I suspect that for example just about anyone in receipt of jobseekers’ allowance likely knows about the many rules surrounding anything to do with food. How so? Jobs to do with food usually require the person to have completed food hygiene training, for starters. Those jobs are often among the vacancies that end up at the Jobcentres.

While I do think that the regulations can look like overkill to anyone wanting to bake some cakes and sell them from a stall once a year, the case of this little boy who got injured highlights the reasoning behind these regulations. They help prevent such incidents.

 

In their own words: the astonishing rise of food banks

Angelina Souren:

“… one of the three food bank directors discovered a woman in the advanced stages of pregnancy and her partner living in a child’s toy tent in winter, with nothing to eat, down a lane less than 200 yards from one of the churches …”

Originally posted on glynismillward189:

Reposted from Guardian Society

The all-party parliamentary group on food poverty and hunger gathered some astonishing and often harrowing evidence from food bank clients, volunteers, public servants and the charities during its eight-month inquiry during April and November this year.

It found hunger was affecting people all over the country: in urban and rural areas, in wealthy towns and deprived neighbourhoods, with often devastating effects on lives and families.

Here’s a flavour of the evidence, which cumulatively describes the reasons for both the rapid escalation of food banks, the scale of food poverty, and its human impact.

The inquiry found food banks have become an emergency response to a dramatic recent rise in food poverty, even in traditionally poor areas, Nigel Hughes, the chief Executive ofYMCA Wirral told the inquiry:

This area [Wirral] has had a number of problems with deprivation for a long time. But it…

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Housing matters at the Supreme Court – 5

Today in Court 2:
Aster Communities Limited (formerly Flourish Homes Limited) (Respondent) v Akerman-Livingstone (AP) (Appellant)

Not broadcast live.

A clear case of a causal relationship between someone’s disability and the reason for issuing proceedings, in my view. Someone unable to comply with what is expected from him. (One could see it as maladministration, perhaps.)

Will the Supreme Court see a violation of the Equality Act and let this weigh heavier or will other interests overrule?

Not an easy case.

Update: still went live later.

Equality: the Black Pete debate

Sinterklaas! Tomorrow! And today is pakjesavond, for those who don’t have the southeastern Dutch tradition that I grew up with. I never knew pakjesavond. As a child, I would come downstairs to breakfast on 6 December and find the table covered with gifts and goodies, and the chairs too.

Unless you’ve been living on Mars, you likely are aware of the hot debate surrounding the Netherlands’ Black Petes.
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