With the rate of homelessness increasing in London, the demand for emergency temporary lodgings is going up as well. However, some families have been unsuitably housed in B&Bs for up to nine months.
Having to share a bathroom among several other guests who are strangers, not having suitable access to a kitchen, and only being allowed limited use of a refrigerator is not the way for a family to live.
According to The Local Government Ombudsman, this was the case of ‘Ms Andrews,’ whose real name cannot be used for legal purposes.
After there had been a violent attack at their home, Ms Andrews applied for housing to the Croydon council for her and her three children and they were put in a shared B&B. Any other housing situation was unavailable to the family at that time, because all private sector rents were too high-priced.
This option was suggested for the family, even though government guidance indicated earlier that B&Bs were not appropriate lodgings for homeless applicants with children unless they are used as a last resort. Also, families are only supposed to stay in temporary housing for six weeks at the most, while more suitable housing is being found for them.
Unfortunately, Ms Andrews and her family lived off of takeaway and in close quarters in the B&B for nine months too long. She could not cook, due to the limited access to the kitchen and spent more money than she wanted to.
Ms Andrews was under a lot of stress from her situation, and her children experienced negative consequences as well, which included a decline in their attendance in school.
David Orr, the chief executive of the National Housing Federation stated that “Every child deserves a decent home to come back to after school, where they can feel secure, and where they can sit down to do their homework. That is what temporary accommodation provides.”
Clearly, Ms Andrews and her family were not well provided for, and this example of re-housing is one of many that have occurred in London lately. The inappropriate use of bed and breakfasts as residences for homeless families beyond the time limit of six weeks has risen by at least 800% since the government took office.
On the Rise
Soaring rent costs, benefit cuts and a recession have led to the increasing rate of homelessness. For these reasons, there was a 50 per cent jump in the amount of homeless people being housed in B&Bs between 2011 and 2012.
At the moment, more than 2,000 families with children are being housed in B&Bs and people who never dreamed of being homeless are now facing the fear of living on the streets.
Housing benefit changes have caused several families to have to leave their homes without any alternative. They are unable to pay rent without the help of the benefits.
According to the BBC, one particular family, the Osmans, moved out of their four bedroom home and now share three bedrooms at a hotel for this reason. Like the Andrews family, they survive on takeaway and the children’s schools are located very far from where they are staying. This makes everyday life even more difficult for them.
Families with older children complain that there is little to no privacy or Wi-Fi, which makes homework nearly impossible.
There is also limited access to washing machines and little to no room to store things. Some families end up having to buy storage spaces with their own money.
Not only are the conditions in the bed and breakfasts unsuitable for families because of the lack of space, privacy and commodities, this option also costs taxpayers and local authorities a lot of money.
There has been an average of £650 a week spent by local authorities throughout England, in order to keep people off the streets and one case of over £21,355 being spent by taxpayers in order to house a single family of five for eight months.
Although some of the homeless have legal entitlement to having accommodations provided for them by a local authority, there are some groups that are left in the dust.
Single homeless people and couples without children do not have entitlement to emergency accommodations and may have to find a place to sleep on their own or risk sleeping rough.
In the case where a family or an individual becomes homeless, the first step that they would take would be to seek advice from their local councils.
The councils may arrange accommodations, however contributions to the cost will be figured out based on income.
If and only if, an emergency situation is at hand, then bed and breakfasts, private hotels and guest houses can be legally used, however they are required to meet certain standards such as having the correct amount of amenities and allowing flexibility for the guests.
This way, the temporary stay, which can only be up to six weeks, will be more pleasant and comfortable for the homeless family or individual.
Luckily, there are also charities that help the homeless by providing them with advice and temporary accommodations.
The situation that Ms Andrews and her family and so many other homeless Britons have gone through was wrong and unfair. Bed and breakfasts were not meant to accommodate entire families, let alone house them for months at a time.