Treat the vulnerable with humanity

Friday, 13th May


‘Rough sleepers are in danger of their health deteriorating significantly, both physically and mentally, from what might already be a low level’

• I AM tired of reading Camden’s misleading responses to your reports of their failures to deal with the most vulnerable of their residents.

Camden claim that if a person is evicted, “homeless prevention services are made aware and work with colleagues to create a plan to prevent the tenant from being homeless”.

If that were true then “James”, referred to in your report (Pensioner rations flushing toilet to cut her water bills, May 5) would never be sleeping rough. So why is he?

Evicted on a Friday, Camden’s rough sleeping team were made aware of his case by members of the public, not by Camden’s housing team or homeless prevention team (which clearly failed their only duty).

The rough sleeping team don’t work over the weekend. Then they say they can do nothing until he is “verified” sleeping rough by one of their officers physically seeing him. This happened only a week later.

I’d love to see the “plan” that was made before a probably illiterate man, with mental health issues, was locked out of his house by bailiffs and the police, without even access to his wallet.

Perhaps they can share it with CNJ to prove that they actually do what they tell your reporters they do?

James’s journey, if he is lucky, will be eviction from a council property, sleeping rough on the streets, picked up from the streets and housed in a hotel, referred back to the housing team as a long-term Camden resident and eventually given another Camden property to live in.

The costs of eviction (bailiffs, police, housing team), health support following a deterioration due to sleeping rough, the costs of hotels and other temporary accommodation, council employees’ time, the costs of clearing and repairing his old property, and the new flat in which he will be housed will all be met out of council funds paid for by taxpayers.

It clearly makes no sense in totality. But the ridiculous way in which internal budgets are set and met, means that every council employee will have done their job.

Meanwhile James will have lost his identity, his neighbours, his support network, his belongings, and his dignity. If he is lucky.

At present James does not trust the council. So he won’t engage with the rough sleeping team: “why would they pay for a hotel when they won’t pay my rent? I don’t believe them”.

Why indeed? Two weeks later, he is still sleeping rough without his possessions.

Rough sleepers are in danger of their health deteriorating significantly, both physically and mentally, from what might already be a low level.

Will James’s journey be one into ill health, substance misuse, and an early death (the lifespan of rough sleepers is 30 to 40 years lower than the national average)?

Will he have to be supported by the kindness of strangers instead of the council for the area in which he has lived for decades?

Can Camden’s employees (and newly-elected councillors) rest easy believing the rubbish spouted by their communications team?

I hope the answer to all those questions is “no”, but I fear otherwise.

According to Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities figures for 2020-21, Camden had the highest number of evictions from council properties of every local authority in England representing over 60 per cent of London’s totals.

This is shameful and with the cost of living crisis leading to ever more rent arrears the problem will only get worse if not stopped.

So let’s just stop it. It is time for joined-up governance and a council that responds to the needs of those it serves, not the performance targets devised by some management consultant.

We all deserve a council with some humanity.

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