“This system let us down”

We want to share the ongoing story of a new client and her experience in accessing housing support. Jasmine is now a British Citizen, originally from Asia, and has been living in Colchester since 2003. In late October she and her three children became homeless. We helped her approach the local housing team. Initially, they advised her that the children could stay with their father, and Jasmine with a friend, so they weren’t really homeless at all.

Despite a history of domestic violence and a NMO (Non Molestation Order) in place against dad, Housing persisted that this was a suitable option. In the meantime, here was a family with nowhere to go and a national Lock-down coming up.

We did what we have done countless times before, and arranged a hotel for the family to stay at.  We only expected this to last a few nights, that Housing would accept responsibility. Over the next few weeks, Jasmine had been contacted by six different social workers and she had to explain her distressing situation again to them each time. We asked a community solicitor to write a pre-action letter and they were on the brink of court proceedings, having consulted a barrister…

After 16 days of being housed in a hotel, paid for by RA-C, Housing accepted that they had a duty to house the family. They moved them to a different hotel, to a smaller room. However, they are providing only three beds for the four of them. There is a small microwave but it costs them a lot to buy food and if they could cook then Jasmine would be able to spend far less on ingredients rather than pre-prepared items.

This experience has been exhausting and distressing for Jasmine and her family, it has impacted their well-being enormously. This could have been prevented had our local housing team intervened properly at the initial point of crisis, and would have saved the family huge amounts of suffering, and saved RA-C over £800. This uphill battle is by no means won. It is very likely this family will spend Christmas in this cramped hotel room.

‘I can’t truly believe Colchester which I fell in love since I first came here turned down me and my children big time. When a genuine disaster happens true vulnerable people never mattered to them (Housing). This system let us down. I know I’m holding up because of children but it won’t last long if everything happens like this. I need answers.’ Jasmine