Domestic abuse accounts for at least one in ten people who require local authority support for homelessness. The national charity SafeLives is dedicated to ending domestic abuse. Earlier this year, they released a report looking at the links between domestic abuse and homelessness. The report found that the two issues are closely linked and looked at some of the challenges that people being abused were facing.
There are many different reasons why someone may be considered homeless and a lot more needs to be done to address the problem. The ‘homeless’ referred to in the SafeLives report are not solely those sleeping rough, but all people without a safe or secure place to live. A person may be considered homeless if they are being put up by friends, squatting or staying in a hostel or B&B.
The Limitations of Social Housing
In many areas, there are long waiting lists for social housing. Councils don’t have to house people who are ‘intentionally homeless’. Sisters Uncut – campaigners against cuts to council services for vulnerable people – note the widespread practice of ‘gatekeeping’. This practice involves councils refusing services to people who are legally entitled to them. For instance, by not telling people that they qualify for emergency accommodation or that they can appeal if refused it. Legally, a person is never intentionally homeless if they leave a home where they are threatened with domestic abuse or violence.
Financial abuse can have an impact on an abused person’s ability to find a home, with many people who have left an abusive relationship shouldering debts that were taken out in their name by a partner. Others may have a bad credit rating. This affects their ability to access housing and could also have an impact on paying rent and bills on time.
With barriers such as gatekeeping preventing access to social housing and financial concerns blocking access to the private rented sector, the only choice may be between homelessness and living with an abusive partner. Refuge provisions are in place to prevent this, but the demand exceeds the supply which has seen people turned away – Women’s Aid estimate that 78 women and 78 children are turned away from refuge on a typical day.
Tackling the Issue
We believe that there needs to be a co-ordinated response to tackle the scandal of domestic abuse and homelessness. At a minimum, the following needs to be done:
More funding for refuge places. There need to be enough places at refuge to meet demand, including provisions in place for those with complex needs and those with no recourse to public funds.
Co-operation between organisations. Refuges and Housing Associations should work together to ensure that survivors have appropriate accommodation when moving on.
Staff training. More needs to be done to ensure that relevant organisations have a full understanding of domestic abuse, homelessness, and how they are connected.
At Leeway, we run training sessions that are aimed at increasing the awareness of the effects of domestic abuse, including the links with homelessness. For more information about any of our training services, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
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