EVICTED: Mum and daughter sleeping in Ford Mondeo in Tesco car park

“Eating, sleeping and cleaning are not priorities at the moment” admits Beverly Clark, who says she has nowhere to live after being evicted by Milton Keynes Council.

“We use public toilets to clean and if we have a bit of spare money, we’ll rent a cheap hotel room for a bit of luxury – but that’s a rarity.

“We barely sleep because we’re scared, and it’s hardly comfortable.

“We’ve given up everything. It’s a nightmare, [my daughter] Deryn can’t go to college and I can’t look for a job in these conditions. It’s a never-ending cycle. I can’t win.”

For the last two months, the pair have tended to park their blue Ford Mondeo in supermarket car parks, where they feel safer, beneath the bright lights. Quieter, darker areas are just “not safe for two girls to be sleeping alone in a car.”

Beverly, 38, and 17-year-old Deryn, found themselves without a home after falling behind with the rent on their council-owned Bletchley home.  The pair were evicted from Cherwell House, Derwent Drive, on Wednesday, September 3.

Beverly said: “We have nobody. I have no family here. I am my own support network and my daughter’s support network.”

According to Milton Keynes Council, Beverly has made the pair “intentionally homeless” by failing to pay the rent for the 10 months she and her daughter resided at the two-bedroom flat since December 27, 2013.

By her own admission, Beverly, who says she suffers with depression, did not fill in the required housing application document in time, nor chase up its whereabouts when it apparently went missing.

A spokesman for the council told MKWeb: “We have tried very hard to help Ms Clark, who did not make any rent payments for the duration of her tenancy, despite our repeated efforts to work with her, and help her. There is a discretionary housing payments scheme, but we will only normally assist people to whom we have a statutory duty to house. Because of the issues with Ms Clark’s tenancy, we found her to be intentionally homeless, and therefore not eligible for help from this fund.

Welfare cuts ‘leave councils with huge bill to put families in hotels’

Thousands of London families are being shunted between hotels as councils struggle with a wave of homelessness sparked by Government cuts.

 

 

Town halls are spending vastly more on emergency accommodation to keep parents and children off the streets than since the Coalition came to power, according to figures released under the Freedom of Information Act.

Separate Government statistics show that 44,370 London families are homeless — almost 6,500 more than 2010 — and councils are struggling to maintain their legal duty to provide shelter. Charities say homelessness is increasing because housing benefit caps mean families cannot cover rising rents charged by private landlords. They are evicted or have to leave their homes, and councils have to spend more on putting them up in hotels and bed-and-breakfast accommodation, sometimes for long stays
. The FoI figures show that between 2010/11 and 2013/14, Westminster council almost doubled expenditure on temporary accommodation, to £40.25 million, and the number of homeless households rose by almost 500 to 2,366. Charity Z2K said among those evicted was a cleaner, his disabled wife and their children, who had to leave their Queen’s Park flat after their housing benefit was cut. They were put in a B&B. Westminster also spent £475 a night on a two-bedroom suite for another family.
Among other boroughs:Lambeth paid just over £130,000 for eight families to live in hotels in 2010. Last year it paid more than £7.8 million for 355 homeless families.
Hillingdon said that in a “buoyant” rental market, its spending on hotels and B&Bs rose from just over £415,000 in 2010 to nearly £1.7 million.
Spending by Greenwich on emergency overnight accommodation almost tripled from £550,764 in 2010 to £1,495,596 last year.
Newham slashed expenditure on hotels from nearly £1.6 million in 2010 to just over £640,000 this year, despite an increase in homeless households.Last month, a group of single mothers forced out of the Focus E15 hostel in Newham occupied homes on the condemned Carpenters Estate in Stratford. The group, led by Jasmine Stone, agreed yesterday to leave the flats but pledged to continue fighting for affordable housing.Joanna Kennedy, of Z2K, said: “These figures reveal how counterproductive the housing benefit cap has been.” Communities Minister Kris Hopkins said: “The law is clear that the accommodation should be used only in an emergency, and then for no longer than six weeks.”
A London Councils spokesman said: “Boroughs are digging into very stretched resources to deal with the sharp-end of the escalating housing crisis, which, alongside government welfare changes, is creating a double whammy for many Londoners.“Boroughs are working flat out to find suitable accommodation for people and reduce the numbers in temporary accommodation, but in the face of the sheer scale of the housing shortage, need real support from government to manage this.”
\from the \evening Standard http://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/welfare-cuts-leave-councils-with-huge-bill-to-put-families-in-hotels-9772401.html

I was ill with hunger, went to prison for stealing food and became homeless

(This was published today on the Guardian’s Society pages)

Welfare expert Matthew Oakley should have spoken to me. I could have told him all about benefits sanctions

In collecting evidence for his review of the failings of the benefits sanctions process, welfare expert Matthew Oakley could have spoken to me. Since 2011, I’ve been sanctioned many times. I received a long benefits sanction due to a mix-up about Work Programme courses I should have attended as a condition of receiving out-of-work benefits. Life became hell. Once my food had run out, I had no money to buy more. I was sent back on the Work Programme but without funds to feed myself. The hunger was unbearable. I did not have the energy to turn up. This led to another sanction.

The sanctions became a vicious cycle as I became too ill to do anything. When I did get a job interview, I looked like a zombie as I had lost so much weight. I could not focus properly and lacked energy. Support from friends and family fell away as they assumed I was addicted to drugs. I was just hungry. I tried contacting my local MP but he did not seem interested. I felt alone and trapped. With nobody to turn to, and feeling like it was my only option, I pocketed a sandwich from a supermarket. I was arrested and fined £80. I had no way of paying and spent a week in prison for non payment. I lost my flat as I was £1,000 in rent arrears and I had piles of outstanding bills.

After a year without benefits, I approached a local homeless shelter for help. They took me in and fed me until the sanction was over. It was only in the hostel that I discovered that I was entitled to hardship payments, of which the Jobcentre had failed to inform me. I now volunteer at the homeless shelter as a thank you for all their help and because it feels good to help feed hungry people. I’ve tried my hardest to avoid more sanctions, but I’ve since been sanctioned for missing my signing in appointment, because I was at a job interview, of all things.

And I’m not alone. A research programme I’m involved in at Leeds University has heard from other people, such as Chloe, who was sanctioned for not doing enough to find work. “Four to eight weeks with no money is pretty alarming when you’ve got kids and bills and a house to run. I think I’ve cried solid for two weeks. I can’t cope,” she told researchers.

As Rosie, another single mother from the study put it: “They’re all right saying that you’re sanctioned as a punishment for not going in [for an appointment] but what am I and my son meant to eat? If that’s the only money we’re getting, what are we meant to do?” I thought “sanctions” were for criminal countries who pose a threat to the world. But now I know they are used against ordinary citizens too.

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/jul/29/benefits-sanctions-matthew-oakley-report-hunger