In December, NACCOM supported two experts by experience to give evidence to a panel of MPs at the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee’s inquiry into the impact of Covid-19 on homelessness and the private rented sector. They gave powerful statements about their personal experiences of homelessness and destitution, and highlighted how gaps in service provision, and the fear and anxiety caused by uncertainties around accessing support, were exacerbated by Covid-19. The full transcript of their evidence is available here.

 

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Abeo’s story

Homelessness during the pandemic; 

“I came to the UK young, 20 years ago; I was 18. I joined my mother, who lives here. I started working immediately and then I put myself in trouble and got sent to prison. My indefinite leave to remain has been revoked. A deportation order has been signed against me. Because of political reasons, I could not be deported back to my country. I got released from the detention centre and immigration put a restriction on me, saying that I am not allowed to work, claim benefits, study or travel. That made me become destitute and homeless. I have been homeless for two years. 

“Before the pandemic, I had to live off begging and sleeping rough mostly. Some of my friends used to let me stay in their house, but since the pandemic no one wants to let me stay in their house

“Because I was scared, on 20 March I sent a desperate email to immigration seeking urgent accommodation so I could isolate myself, but they never replied to me. One day I was sitting on the street and the police came to me and they told me that I needed to call the number of a charity that was getting everyone off the street. I called the number and the charity organisation contacted my local council on behalf of me and they asked for urgent accommodation, and the council called me and interviewed me over the phone. They asked me to fill in a form. I filled in the form, and the next day they sent me an email saying, “Your application has been refused, because you have no recourse to public funds.”

“I called the council and asked them about it. The Government asked the councils to house all rough sleepers to tackle Covid-19. Because I have an underlying health condition, I need to be isolated. They said, “The decision has been made and we cannot do anything for you”. I could not win the case, so I carried on sleeping on the streets. A few days later I contacted another charity called NACCOM, and NACCOM contacted a different nearby council on behalf of me. They asked for urgent accommodation, and that council agreed to put me in a B&B for the weekend but they did not give me any food or money. I ate only cornflakes for three days. Three days later, the council interviewed me and they told me, “Your application has been refused and you have to leave the B&B”. I told them, “I have an underlying health condition and I cannot be on the streets again. Can I stay here?” They said, “We cannot accommodate you for now because your last address belonged to a different borough, and for that reason your application has been refused”. Because I was scared to sleep rough, I refused to leave the B&B. The council called the police on me, and the police took my B&B room key and put me on the streets. I am back on the street again. NACCOM contacted the Public Interest Law Centre, and the Public Interest Law Centre wants to take legal action against the council. After a month and a half, the council accommodated me without any financial support.”

The impact of NRPF restrictions;

“It is very hard to comply when you are not allowed to work or claim benefits. It is very hard to comply, and it is against human rights as well. It is like the Government telling you, “Just sit on the street. You are not allowed to eat; you are allowed to sleep in a house; just sit on the street and die”. It is very difficult. I have met so many people in prison, in detention centres and in reporting centres with the same restriction I have now. I know some of those people commit crimes just to support themselves, because they have no other way to get income. When they commit a crime, the public are the victims. To be honest, I do not think the Government understand what the impact of putting the restriction of no recourse to public funds on people does. It makes people make the wrong choices and the wrong decisions.

“If you are a human being, you should be able to access your basic needs like food, cleaning yourself and staying in accommodation until your immigration status is solved. They should not put people on restrictions. That is it.

“My dream is to be a personal trainer. I would love to help people and show them how to live a healthy life. I have level 2 and level 3 personal training qualifications and I am a spinning class instructor. I have all three certificates. I love to train people. That is my dream, if everything was solved.”

Abeo is still being accommodated by the local council, but says he lives in fear of being evicted into homelessness; 

“On my tenancy agreement, it says, “This is temporary accommodation and we can tell you to leave whenever we want. You have no right on this property. If we ask you to leave, we will give you 24 hours and you must leave”. That is what it says. The council have also been contacting me in the last two or three weeks to say, “Because you have no recourse to public funds and you do not get housing benefit, if you do not sort out your housing benefit, we will not be able to continue supporting you”—basically, “We will evict you”.”

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➡️ Read more about our campaigns and advocacy work around preventing evictions into homelessness.