Support for Discriminated Women in Tower Hamlets temporary accommodation
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A dangerous environment, the hostel discussed is a supported accommodation for vulnerable adults, specifically women. They are exploited on a daily and nightly basis. It is funded by Tower Hamlets Supported Accommodation Commissioning Team, sustained by Tower Hamlets council and maintained by the Salvation Army landlord. WO is reference to a Women Only hostel in tower hamlets. Abbreviated to protect the privacy of women who live there. However the decision maker will know exactly where the reference is to.
We the undesigned petition the following:
We petition that any evidence, used to support a proposal to reduce the supply of accommodation for homeless women in the borough, is made available to the public.
We request Lookahead, the Salvation Army, Tower Hamlets Supported Acommodation commissioning team to confirm WO closure in writing
We petition against a rent which we feel is high for a room in social accommodation, and request a rent breakdown which outlines the costs of the rent
We request any move on initiative to be administered fairly and in the context of our living situation, that residents are being made unintentionally homeless.
We petition that women in WO are not adequately housed, as categorised by tower hamlets LETTINGS
We petition that our health, safety and well being be adequately observed by Lookahead, the Salvation Army, Tower Hamlets Supported Acommodation commissioning team and Tower Hamlets council.
WE PETITION AGAINST ANY FURTHER DISCRIMINATION TOWARDS WOMEN IN THE BOROUGH WHO ARE VULNERABLE, including access to allocation schemes for supported housing
Women Only Hostel (WO) Background
WO Hostel is a supported accommodation for vulnerable women. It is funded by Tower Hamlets Supported Accommodation Commissioning Team and sustained by Tower Hamlets and SAHA, the landlord. The Salvation Army have been the landlord since it was built and they managed the service until Lookahead became the service provider in 2015. They continue to act as Landlord.
The Hostel houses 118 women.
Women with a range of disabilities, including physical and mental health conditions, are housed in the temporary accommodation after being referred by Tower Hamlets HOST (Housing Options Service team).
Despite the hostel being temporary accommodation, Tower Hamlets lettings categorises women here as adequately housed. Consequently, after being referred by Tower Hamlets and HOST, the council dispel any duty of care to residents.
The women referred here are categorised as vulnerable adults due to a range of disabilities, behaviours and history. Women experience the physical dangers of the hostel on a daily basis, present both inside the hostel and the surrounding community which associates with it. This includes all manners of abuse including financial, verbal and physical, mental abuse, emotional abuse, Drug abuse and coercion, sex work and coercion, and assault. Most women have been asked in the surrounding areas for sexual services, including staff and vulnerable residents, sex workers or not. Drug dealers operate freely. There has been more than one instance when a resident may enter the facility drug free, and Experiences a relapse or new serious addiction as a result of the environment. How has this continuously been accepted as an adequate environment for vulnerable women?
When someone is disenfranchised to the point of homelessness, the first advice people give is to get a job. Although this is unfeasible for residents who have disabilities which prevent them from working. There are residents who have tried to and have experienced severe barriers to work, directly related to the hostel. The rent for one room in the hostel is £872.52 per month. Service charge for a room is £13.62 bringing the total rent for a room in social housing to £927 per month, for a room with shared kitchen and laundry facilities.
Taking into account the chaotic nature of the building, maintaing a job becomes problematic. Even if motivated to work, it is widely accepted, and residents are advised, not to work more than 16 hours to stay in receipt of full housing benefit.
What has been established in the hostel as a result is a “benefit trap” which is only profitable to SAHA, the Salvation Army Landlord. With residents encouraged into long term benefit claims (and subsequently vilified for doing so).
The service charge in the hostel is higher than most council properties. Since the change in management to lookahead, resident services have in actuality been cut, including the breakfast of tea and toast. The only meal some of the most vulnerable residents ate.
It has come to the attention of some residents that The Salvation Army plan to convert the neighbouring hostel, booth house, into commercial flats. As a result Tower Hamlets is on course to loose bed space for over 100 homeless adults.
Coincidentally the Supported accommodation commissioning team for tower hamlets have verbally said that the demand for single homeless women does not meet the 118 capacity of the WO building. Contrary to it consistently operating at full capacity throughout the year (until the very recent decanting of residents had begun).
Rumours that WO Hostel will be closed down have been widely accepted and verbally confirmed as true. However this has never officially been communicated to residents in writing. Residents have received no written confirmation from the Salvation Army, The Commissioning team, or Lookahead that a closure has been proposed and accepted. It would appear that all parties involved were resolved to “keeping residents in the dark”.
Instead a new move on drive has been initiated by HOST, lookahead and the commissioning team in a series of meetings with those residents available to attend. Although we wish to leave the hostel, we are presently cautious of the new intentions behind the HOST initiative of residents “move on pathways”. Maintaining the assumption that a WO Hostel closure is in preparation.
An allocations scheme had been in effect until April 2017. It allocated 75 one bedroom council properties for the purpose of rehousing tenants from supported accommodation. In 2015 the actual lets for people from supported accommodation were 40. Since 2012, the 75 target has never been met. No known WO residents have ever been nominated to the scheme. This implies continued discrimination against women in supported accommodation by the borough.
Women who live in WO, carry the stigma of living in this hostel every day throughout our time here. For some residents that has been a number of months. However many residents have been here for a number of years. Being moved to another hostel after so much time is unreasonable, as an understatement.
In this petition we are making a stand for ourselves and vulnerable women who may become homeless in the future.
The benefits of a woman only hostel and arguments for its necessity are strong. However the borough will lose 118 bed spaces in supported accommodation for women, on the back of a WO closure. There has been no evidence demonstrated to support the hostel closure. There has also been no evidence of plans to cover the loss of immediate, temporary bed space for homeless adults, specific and not exclusive to Women.
The possibility of becoming homeless AGAIN continues to be a source of anxiety and despair for the residents who live here.
It is peculiar that the cabinet member for Housing and development has in the recent past boasted to providing a “£2.2m Preventing Homelessness Fund” (presumably more since the statement). Yet in the case of supported housing, has consistently under allocated secure tenancy homes according to their own targets.
We feel that Tower Hamlets Supported housing commissioning team, HOST, Lookahead and the Salvation Army have in the past shown a blatant disregard for our safety and wellbeing, including throughout the presumed process of closing WO Hostel. Impeding “move on pathways” should in the least regard our health, and status of living in a supported accommodation set for closure.
True failings of WO should be admitted in their entirety. They need to be addressed in full, and used to prevent continued systematic failings across supported accommodation. We reject an observed 'cover up' of the institutional failings of WO in its silent and immediate closure. Failings need to be observed and addressed to prevent further harm to residents. We reject the disempowerment of residents who have been presented with no information on the closure and who face being forced into a cycle of homelessness.
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