Homelessness is something that happens to many ordinary people all over Britain. If you are worried about becoming homeless, help and advice is available that may prevent that happening – for instance money advice or advice in relation to your current tenancy rights.
If you are homeless now and have not already contacted Housing and Property Services please contact one of the following as soon as possible:
- The Homeless Prevention Team. Hours: Monday - Friday 9am - 5pm)
- The Housing and Property Services office or the Service Point in your area (for contact details see Appendix A. Hours: Monday – Friday 9am - 5pm
- The Highland Council’s Standby Service - Tel 0845 700 2005
Hours: 5pm – 9am Monday to Friday, weekends and holidays e.g. Christmas, Easter
How many people are homeless in Highland?
In 2010/11 just under 2100 households applied as homeless in the Highlands. Just under 90 households were found not to be homeless and a further 400 dropped their application. Around 22 households did not meet the ‘priority need’ criteria. Advice and assistance are given to these applicants and where it is required, temporary accommodation is provided.
Badenoch and Strathspey
- Number of households applying as homeless - 89
- Percentage of households assessed as homeless and in “priority need” - 92%
- Percentage of households assessed as homeless but not in “priority need - 10%
- Number of households applying as homeless - 230
- Percentage of households assessed as homeless and in “priority need”- 55%
- Percentage of households assessed as homeless but not in “priority need” - 17%
- Number of households applying as homeless - 175
- Percentage of households assessed as homeless and in “priority need” - 82%
- Percentage of households assessed as homeless but not in “priority need” - 7%
- Number of households applying as homeless - 793
- Percentage of households assessed as homeless and in “priority need” - 62%
- Percentage of households assessed as homeless but not in “priority need” - 10%
- Number of households applying as homeless - 186
- Percentage of households assessed as homeless and in “priority need” - 53%
- Percentage of households assessed as homeless but not in “priority need” - 12%
Mid and West Ross
- Number of households applying as homeless - 216
- Percentage of households assessed as homeless and in “priority need” - 69%
- Percentage of households assessed as homeless but not in “priority need” - 15%
- Number of households applying as homeless - 103
- Percentage of households assessed as homeless and in “priority need” - 38%
- Percentage of households assessed as homeless but not in “priority need” - 23%
Skye & Lochalsh
- Number of households applying as homeless - 135
- Percentage of households assessed as homeless and in “priority need” - 67%
- Percentage of households assessed as homeless but not in “priority need”- 11%
- Number of households applying as homeless - 15
- Percentage of households assessed as homeless and in “priority need” - 73%
- Percentage of households assessed as homeless but not in “priority need” 0%
The remaining applicants were either found to be not homeless, lost contact with the Council, or their situation was resolved (April 2010 – March 2011)
The groups of people applying as homeless, and the reasons they give for applying, are similar to past years. The number of single person households pplying as homeless has dropped slighlty frmo two-thirds of applications to 57% in 2010/2011. Although most of these (around 1 in 4 of all homeless applicants) are between 25 and 65 years old; many are far younger. Nearly 40% of homeless applicants are under 25.
Homelessness is a traumatic and negative experience for anyone but it can have a particularly damaging effect on children. The number of families with children applying as homeless has decreased in the last year by over 100. However, there are still over 550 homeless applications involving families with children under 16 in 2010/11. Many of these children spent time living in temporary housing – often for long periods - before they were permanently housed.
Can I prevent myself from becoming homeless?
If you think you may have to leave your present home, regardless of whether you own the property, rent it from a private or social landlord, or are a tied tenant, don’t delay getting advice. You may be able to prevent yourself becoming homeless if you act early enough. The Council has set up a team of officers (Homeless Prevention Team) who will work with applicants to help them remain in their homes. To arrange an appointment with a member of the Homeless Prevention Team, contact the Team or your local Housing and Property Office, or speak to Shelter or the Citizen’s Advice Bureau. (Contact details can be found in Appendix A ).
Advice is provided free of charge to anyone who needs it. The Council will treat all persons seeking advice or information with courtesy, sensitivity and in complete confidence.
Although more specialised advice can be provided by Homeless Prevention Team and Housing and Property Service staff, information and advice is also available at all of the Council’s Service Points – again, see Appendix A for details.
What happens if I do end up homeless?
Local authorities have a legal duty to help homeless people - firstly by interviewing them and assessing their housing situation and secondly, (if they meet certain criteria) by offering them temporary or permanent accommodation. Advice and information is available free of charge e.g. information on different housing options. Information on services that may help homeless people may be found on the Streetwise website at www.streetwise-highland.org. Copies of this manual can also be viewed at all Housing and Property Offices, Service Points, Libraries, and other Council Offices such as Social Work Offices.
If you are in Inverness, the Day Centre provides many services to homeless people – see below for more information.
Also, see the section on Homeless Assessment below.
In Highland, all people claiming homelessness are interviewed by skilled and experienced housing staff in the local housing and property offices. They can have a relative, friend or advisor present at any interview. They can also request an interview with a housing officer of either sex.
Interviews will be held in private interview rooms and all information will be treated in complete confidence. Interviews will be carried out with courtesy and sensitivity. Details of the interview will be recorded in writing and the applicant will be given a copy to take away with them.
In cases where English is not the person’s first language the Council will arrange for an interpreter to be present at the interview or in some cases the interpretation will be by telephone – see Section 13 for more details.
How will my homelessness application be assessed?
The four main criteria which must all be satisfied by applicants are that they are:
- in priority need
- not intentionally homeless
- have a local connection to the area
Detailed guidance is provided by the Scottish Government through the "Code of Guidance on Homelessness" published in May 2005. This code provides guidance to Local Authorities on things that they must have regard to when assessing a homeless application. It also provides information on how to interpret each of the criteria. Copies are available to view at all Housing and Property Offices, or on the Scottish Government website.
Key points to note about each of the criteria, sometimes described as “hurdles”, are as follows:
This means the applicant and anyone who would reasonably be expected to live with them is in one of the following situations:
- has no accommodation anywhere in the UK or elsewhere which he or she is entitled or permitted to occupy, or
- is going to be in a homeless situation within 2 months, or
- it is unreasonable to expect the applicant to go on living in their present home - typically because of the threat of violence from another member of the household, or because the accommodation is so sub-standard that it presents a real danger to the health of the applicant.
Part I of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 (which deals with homelessness) provides that “A person should be treated as homeless if it is probable that remaining in the home will lead to violence, or threats of violence from another person living in the accommodation and it is likely that the person will carry out the threat”.
The Code of Guidance recommends that the Council should take reasonable steps to obtain information to support the applicant’s case. However if it proves impossible to obtain confirming evidence, then the applicant’s expressed fears should be considered as sufficient evidence.
Households falling into the following categories will be considered to be in priority need:
- Households where there are dependent children
- Households where there is a pregnant woman
- Applicants who are under 22 years of age
- Households becoming homeless as a result of an emergency such as flood, fire or any other disaster
- Vulnerable households.
People in the following categories may be assessed as being vulnerable and will be awarded priority need status:
- Anyone under 25 years of age who has previously been in the care of the local authority at any time in their life
- Anyone considered to be vulnerable because of old age
- Anyone suffering from a mental illness; personality disorder; learning disability; physical disability; chronic ill health or having suffereed a miscarriage or undergone an abortion
- Anyoe who seriously misuses alcohol or drugs (whether or not a controlled drug within the meaning of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (c.38) or any volatile substance
- Anyone having been discharged from a hospital, a prison or any part of the regular UK armed forces
- Anyone at risk of domestic abuse
- Anyone who, by reason of their religion, sexual orientation, race, colour, ethnic or national origin runs the risk of violence, or is, or is likely to be, the victim o a corse of conduct amounting to harassment.
- Households who may have various low level concerns or issues in their lives but no one major reason for automatically being considered as being in priority need.
- Other special reasons
The Council must satisfy itself that the applicant did not deliberately do something or fail to do something which resulted in homelessness, e.g. refusing to pay rent for no proper reason, or a teenager leaving the parental home without presenting a compelling reason why he or she could not return.
The applicant must have a local connection with the Highlands. Local connection is defined in section 27(1) of the 1987 Act as a connection which a person has with an area:
- because he or she is or was in the past normally resident in it, and this residence was of his or her own choice; or
- because he or she is employed in it; or
- because of family associations; or
- because of any special circumstances.
Applicants in special circumstances are assessed on a case by case basis. This includes people fleeing domestic abuse or someone who has no local connection with anywhere in the United Kingdom.
Where an applicant is unintentionally homeless and in priority need, temporary accommodation will be provided until an offer of secure accommodation can be made to them. If an applicant is homeless but is not in priority need under the terms detailed above, temporary accommodation will be provided for a period of time to allow them to secure alternative accommodation. If the person has no local connection, they may in some circumstances be referred to another local authority.
When will I know the outcome?
The Council aims to reach a final decision on each homeless application within a 28 day period. People facing a homeless situation may wish to seek independent advice from for example, the CAB, Shelter, or from a solicitor, where appropriate. Contact details for the CAB and Shelter can be found in Appendix A. The Council will write to every applicant giving its decision and explaining why the decision was made.
The assessment period for applications allows Council staff enough time to make the necessary enquiries to verify each applicant’s homeless circumstances properly. Applicants are kept regularly informed by the staff concerned on the progress being made with the assessment of their application. Applicants may be contacted by Council staff either in person, by telephone or in writing.
As the Council investigates all homeless applications thoroughly, contacts are made with any agency, former or current landlord, etc. when pursuing these enquiries. In cases of domestic abuse, no contact will be made with the perpetrator. Where appropriate, contact will be made with Social Work Services or the Police. The investigations carried out are in accordance with the good practice guidelines set out in the Code of Guidance.
Can I appeal if I do not agree with the assessment?
Applicants dissatisfied with the decision on their homelessness may ask to have their decision reviewed. Firstly, an applicant can discuss the decision made with the local housing office who issued the decision letter. If they are still dissatisfied with the decision that has been made, the applicant has the right to request a review of this decision by a Housing Policy Officer. To do this they must write, within 21 calendar days of receiving the homeless decision letter, to the Housing Policy Officer, at Housing and Property, The Highland Council, Glenurquhart Road, Inverness, IV3 5NX, stating why they think the decision is wrong.
In the first instance, the Housing and Property Manager in the area the decision is made will review the case and may overturn the decision. If however the relevant Housing and Property Manager agrees with the decision that their staff have made they will within 7 calendar days pass a report on the case to the Housing Policy Officer who will review it and notify the applicant in writing of the outcome. Applicants may also wish to contact a lawyer or an agency such as the Citizen’s Advice Bureau or Shelter for advice and information regarding their case and the homelessness legislation.
If the applicant remains dissatisfied with the outcome of the review, they will then have the right to request a 2nd Stage review of the decision by a Homeless Appeals Panel. The applicant will be invited to attend this review and may be accompanied by a friend or advocate. If the Homeless Appeals Panel upholds the homelessness decision, the applicant has the right to ask for a Judicial Review of the case. If the applicant wishes to have their case reviewed by the Homeless Appeals Panel, they should advise the Housing Policy Officer in writing, giving reasons why they think the original decision was wrong, within 7 calendar days of recieving the decision on the 1st Stage review and arrangements will be made for the 2nd Stage review to take place. If the applicant wishes to ask for a Judicial Review, Housing Services will advise them how to arrange this.
If an applicant is dissatisfied with how their application has been handled (not the actual decision that is reached) they have a right to complain using The Highland Council’s Comments and Complaints system. You can do this by writing into the Council or you can pick up a form from any Service Point or Council Office. Alternatively, you can send your comments or complaints electronically by logging into the Council’s website at www.highland.gov.uk.
What sort of temporary accommodation will I be offered?
The type of temporary accommodation used by the Council includes; designated furnished and occasionally unfurnished Council and housing association flats or houses, hostels properties and rooms leased and rented from private landlords. While the Council tries to provide temporary accommodation without using Bed and Breakfast accommodation, sometimes this is the only practical solution. Vulnerable homeless applicants may well require additional forms of support to help them through this difficult period in their lives. The Council's housing staff work closely with other Council staff and all the relevant local agencies to assess exactly what support is required and, where possible, to ensure that appropriate support is provided.
Anyone who is assessed as being homeless, but is not in ‘priority need’ will be provided with temporary accommodation for a reasonable period of time, to allow them to seek alternative accommodation. The Homeless Prevention Team will provide advice and Information to assist them in finding accommodation.
The Council has a duty to house all applicants in permanent accommodation who are in priority need, not intentionally homeless, and who have a local connection with the Highland area. This is done through the normal waiting list. Homeless, or potentially homeless, applicants are awarded ‘homeless’ points in addition to any other points they may be entitled to. (For an explanation of how housing is allocated see Section 1.2).
How long will I have to stay in temporary accommodation?
On average, households are likely to spend just over 20 weeks in temporary accommodation. However this can vary greatly depending on the size of property the household requires and the area they want to be housed in. It will also depend on the number of properties that become available to allocate.
In order to respond to homelessness as quickly as possible and to minmise the time spent in temporary accommodation, the applicant will receive one reasonable offer of settled accommodation aimed at resolving their homelessness. This may be made by any of the Highland Housing Register (HHR) partners and will be the best offer possible from the housing stock available.
A reasonable offer of settled accommodation is interpreted as one which meets the applicant's housing needs, taking into account the advice provided in the Code of Guidance on Homelessness and the general availability of housing in the Area
This offer may not be for the type of accommodation the applicant has indicated they would prefer and will not necessarily be restricted to those Lettings Areas deemed acceptable by the applicant. However, we will assess reasonable travel distances and time by public transport to work and established social networks. We will also consider proximity to existing schools if a family member is at a critical stage in their education e.g. about to sit standard/higher grade examinations.
If a reasonable offer of accommodation is refused, the Councill will consider that it has discharged its homelessness duty. In these circumstances, the household's housing application will be dealt with according to the general allocations policy, but without homeless priority. The applicant will be gien notice to vacate any temporary accommodation provided and the applicant will be expected to secure their own accommodation.
How much rent will I pay in temporary accommodation?
The rent charged to applicants in this type of accommodation is generally more than for general needs housing. This is because the charges have to cover the costs of managing the accommodation and providing furniture. The rent and charges may also be different depending on the type of temporary housing provided – for instance B&B. If a homeless application is made and an applicant is provided with temporary accommodation, the Housing Officer will explain in detail about the charges, and what help is available for people with no or low income such as Housing Benefit – for more information on Housing Benefit, see Section 6.
What happens at the Inverness Homeless Day Centre?
1 Waterloo Place
Phone: 01463 718669
The Day Centre in Inverness provides safety, warmth and shelter to anyone who is homeless or threatened with homelessness. Our staff can give practical help and advice on many issues including housing and personal support and can arrange for clients to access other appropriate services. Health Services are also provided in the Day Centre. Around 35 clients visit the Day Centre each day to make use of the various facilities and services that are available. There are showers, washing machine and tumble drier facilities. Lockers are available for rough sleepers.
Housing support workers based in the Day Centre provide:
- Housing support to clients living in many different circumstances including B&B, temporary furnished and mainstream tenancies.
- Advice on prevention of homelessness
- Street work engaging on a 1: 1 basis with rough sleepers on the street
- Advice and assistance to clients in emergency accommodation.
- Links to life skills/work projects.
- Housing Needs Assessor
- Resettlement Officer
9am – 11am café/drop in centre/light breakfast
11am – 12.30pm appointments with allocated staff members
12.30pm – 1.30pm closed
2pm – 3pm appointments with allocated staff members
3pm – 6pm café/drop in centre/meal
GP Mon – Thurs - appointments available
CPNA Thursday - appointments available - substance misuse/harm reduction
CPN Thursday - appointments available - community psychiatric nurse
Nurse Mon – Friday - needle exchange/hep c clinic Tel 01463 717594
Dentist Thursdays ask staff
Every Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday evening the Highland Homeless Trust runs a social club between 7pm and 9pm from the Day Centre. It gives clients an opportunity to watch television, participate in activities and meet other clients.
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