Housing benefit payments can be suspended, and people can be deemed ineligible for benefit which will cause payments to stop. This happened to Geoffrey. He’s 67 years old and was signed off work years ago because of poor health. His benefit is vital as it covers the cost of his housing. When it stopped he was made very vulnerable, he says,
“People can be in accommodation and then five minutes later they’re out of there because their housing benefit hasn’t been sorted out properly. A social worker did say to me that housing benefit cuts cause more homelessness in London than any other.”
He’s slept rough more than once in the last fifteen years and describes how de-humanising it was,
“You sleep like a dog, with one ear cocked because there’s always going to be something going on. You might get pissed on, have beer chucked on you. This happened all the time when I was homeless. It’s people coming out of the pubs and clubs. I used to get ‘get a job’ a lot too.”
“The Connection’s outreach team which got me to come in. I came in to Connections a few times. I stayed in the night centre here. I didn’t like the night centre but I stuck it out because Kaz my keyworker made me. There were loads of times I wanted to walk but she made me stick it out, stick it out.”
Geoffrey says that he needed to be challenged about his situation, which ultimately helped him address things and move in to housing.
“What I liked about her is she’d tell me if I was wrong. She wouldn’t fanny round the houses. She was tough sometimes and maybe that’s what I needed. If I was out of order she would definitely let me know. Instead of all that, ‘ah poor you’, I don’t like all that. I don’t actually need that.”
Once in accommodation he received help with his paperwork including support to receive benefits. Many people need support with the application as it is complicated process, particularly for people who are not IT literate.
“She come down and helped me with all the paperwork. Because with the paperwork you need someone who knows what they’re doing. It’s like a minefield.”
He says he likes where he’s staying currently because it’s more “homely” and that he still comes back to The Connection occasionally for support, “Most homeless people have got issues of some sort, that’s why we’re in the position we’re in. It’s sometimes nice to have someone to talk to, who will really listen.”