Brighton Council gives young lesbian family noon ultimatum

Shanice Hudson 22, is Brighton born and bred. 

Shanice and Clare

Shanice and Clare

For the last 10 months she, her wife Clare 27 and their young child who is under two years old have been suffering an emergency accommodation nightmare.

Since the council accepted responsibility to provide the couple with emergency accommodation in May 2016, they have been moved nine times including out of the area to Hastings and Eastbourne where they say they had to share kitchen facilities with injecting drug users and a convicted murderer (housed after 10 years in prison).

Clare, a care leaver, who originally had her own business when she and her wife became homeless, says she’s worked hard to provide for her family.

She has ADHD and other mental health issues which normally she can control. Despite knowing this, the couple claim Brighton & Hove City Council have chosen to move the family into a smaller room than they presently have, in a fifth floor flat up 8/9 sets of stairs, in the ‘notorious’ emergency accommodation block, Percival Terrace.

This move is happening because government legislation says families with children can only stay in non self-contained accommodation for six weeks. However, the family were only given the letter telling them about the move on Friday, March 17 at 4.30pm and told if they do not accept the offer today, Monday 20 at noon, the Councils responsibility to provide them with emergency accommodation will be discharged.

The family feel a few days notice from deadline is grossly unfair and reject the suitability of Percival Terrace, as a safe alternative to their present accommodation, as does Clare’s Consultant Psychiatrist.

In a letter to their independent advocate, the women wrote:

“I am writing to voice my concerns regarding an offer of emergency accommodation made to me by the council. This is our 9th emergency placement since May last year when a full housing duty was accepted. We have been in several unsuitable and dangerous properties since being ‘Revenge Evicted’ from Baron Homes for reporting disrepair.

Currently we are in the Baytree in a non self-contained room. I have made a complaint to the council regarding rats in and around the building and also requested a suitability review.

BHCC have contacted me today and offered us a placement at Percival Terrace in a self-contained room. We viewed the room today and I have the following concerns:

Percival Terrace is obviously a bigger hostel style building than the Baytree. I suffer from Bipolar, Severe adult ADHD and PTSD. I am LGBT+ and a care leaver. I suffer from severe panic attacks and anxiety and this is made worse by being around so many people and witnessing anti social behaviour triggers manic/depressive episodes.

The room is on the 4th floor with roughly 8/9 sets of stairs to access it. This will be impossible for my wife to get in and out with our nearly 2-year-old son who suffers from delayed developmental issues due to the trauma caused by the unsettlement we have endured and lack of space to play and learn in most of the placements we have been in. We were also moved from room 23 at the Baytree last year by BHCC’s own admission due to being on the 3rd floor and struggling with the stairs. BHCC have admitted this in the stage 2 response from my complaint.

The room is smaller than the one we are in now and only has a microwave to prepare food in. BHCC are unable to help us move/store our belongings and we physically would not be able to fit our stuff in the room.

The room is dirty and has pipes all around the floor. I am concerned my son will burn himself when the heating is on. I also feel unsafe about opening the window in case of an accident as it only opens from the bottom.

I have seen a lot of worrying stories on social media regarding Percival Terrace as well and I believe there was an incident recently where a room on the same floor had the ceiling collapse already. This petrifies me.

The whole situation has had such a negative affect on both me and my family so far and I feel like we are now in crisis and am desperate for any support you may be able to offer. Shelter’s media team and the Local government Ombudsman are currently investigating my complaint but are unable to assist with any new incidents or further offers of accommodation.”

Finally the couple claim throughout the last year the council’s housing team have refused to acknowledge them as Mrs, evident in council correspondence where they are are referred to as Ms despite providing the council with their marriage certificate and asking to be acknowledged as Mrs.

Gscene have asked Brighton and Hove City Council to explain their housing guidelines for rehousing people with mental health issues in emergency accommodation and also confirm if the council’s heterosexual clients are referred to as Ms in council correspondence.

What do you think? 

Should a young woman with mental health issues, a young child and wife to look after be placed in such accommodation?

Should the council’s priority be to keep this family together?

Regarding use of titles, the council’s responded saying it is their policy to use whichever title people identify with and ask them to use. They apologise if the couple asked to be called Mrs and this has not been done and promise to raise the issue with the council’s housing team.

A council spokesperson, continued: “We acknowledge the incredibly difficult circumstances all homeless households are experiencing, and place Mrs Hudson’s experience within the context of a very serious lack of affordable accommodation in Brighton & Hove.

We place a very great emphasis on early intervention to prevent homelessness. Since 2004, this authority has prevented nearly 11,000 households from becoming homeless.

Unfortunately for some, this is not possible and the council has to provide accommodation within the safety net of homelessness provisions. We very much regret that the Hudsons have had such a difficult experience.

Mrs Hudson’s case is currently being considered by the Housing Ombudsman. We have sent the Ombudsman a detailed response to the allegations that have been made. With legal correspondence ongoing and possible legal action pending it would not be appropriate for us to publicly divulge the detail of our response.

We are not aware of our providers evicting anyone in revenge of anything. Our investigations into specific cases have not found any evidence of this.

In general terms, the council investigates every eviction to consider the behaviour of the provider and that of the resident to ensure it is proportionate. Decisions about whether a housing duty is discharged are based on legislation and case-law.

When placing people in temporary accommodation we take into account all the written medical evidence that is made available to us. However, the accommodation that is available to us and affordable is very limited.

Where we have a duty under housing legislation to offer people temporary accommodation we always do so. Similarly, whenever we have a duty under social care legislation to offer people support we always do so.

As in many parts of the UK, there is a serious shortage of affordable permanent and temporary accommodation in the city. We therefore work with landlords in areas that are within reach of Brighton & Hove by public transport in order to offer accommodation to people for whom we have a duty to find accommodation.

All households are offered the opportunity to obtain alternative private rented accommodation. We also assist people to obtain social housing in areas of the country where there is less demand and where they can be housed quickly if this what they would prefer. These options remains open to Mrs Hudson.

We understand that the temporary accommodation we offer is basic and does not meet the aspirations of people to have a permanent home. However, all our contracted temporary accommodation has specified standards including the management.

We undertake regular inspections to ensure standards are adhered to or work is in hand to remedy disrepair and damages – which are inevitable with a high turnover of homeless households who have a range of needs. There will occasionally be incidents which our accommodation providers cannot prevent, but we are satisfied that such issues are managed swiftly and effectively.”

In a report to the Housing and New Homes Committee on Wednesday, January 18, 2017  it is mentioned there were 11,520 council properties in Brighton and Hove. A year ago, in February 2016, there were 11,650.

 

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