Hope 4 Havering: Homelessness ‘is only going to get worse.’
PUBLISHED: 07:00 22 May 2015 | UPDATED: 08:49 22 May 2015
Charity workers are warning of an impending homelessness crisis as new figures reveal Havering Council has drastically missed its housing targets.
Jake Rowan, 20, lives in one of Hope 4 Havering’s community houses.
“I became homeless when I was 18 when my mum went to prison.
“I had no one. My brother and sister both had kids so I couldn’t stay with them.
“For the first couple of days I was sleeping rough, under bushes, on park benches anywhere I could get a bit of shelter.
“I went into the night shelter for five months, you had to be there by 7pm and if I missed it I would sleep in Queen’s Hospital.
“I’ve been in a community house for eight months, where I’ve got my own room and it’s lovely.”
The authority lags behind only Kensington and Chelsea in meeting its house building targets between 2010 and 2013 – with fewer than 25 per cent built.
In those three years the borough built only 713 houses of the 2,910 target set by the Greater London Authority.
Homelessness charity, Hope 4 Havering, said it has already had 40 people referred to its night shelter this month, the most since the charity launched in November 2011. This far exceeds the shelter’s capacity of 23.
Director Kim Merry told the Recorder: “The problems are multiplying and we honestly believe it is only going to get worse.”
Rob Brown, manager of Balgores Property Group’s lettings department in Victoria Road, Romford, said the housing shortage has led to the affordable rental market being saturated.
Mr Brown said an average of 25 prospective tenants attend every property viewing, adding: “It is now basically impossible for someone on benefits to find a property to rent.
“A month’s rent and a month’s deposit is too much for most people on benefits and they have to go down other avenues.”
Cllr Damian White, cabinet member for housing services, has defended Havering Council’s record and said it is working to bring forward development.
He said: “We have been set housing targets, but we do not control the market.
“To achieve those targets, we have been working closely with the private sector to bring forward sites for development as well as forging ahead with building 213 council homes – the first time in 25 years that new council houses have been built.”
Hope 4 Havering has said its night shelter and five community houses are full.
In January this year, the charity received 37 referrals for the shelter, more than double previous years.
Kim Merry, said: “Rents are just too high for people on housing benefit.
“I do not know what people are to do, it is like people should just evaporate, they should just disappear.”
A senior support worker at Hope 4 Havering has expressed further concerns that young people in temporary housing can become vulnerable to gangs.
Emma Simmonds said: “You get kids from abusive families who cannot get any support.
“There are gangs who know where these houses are and they offer these kids, who have got nothing, £20 or £30 to run some drugs for them.”
She revealed a 19-year-old girl had set up a Go Fund Me page to raise money for rent after fleeing an arranged marriage.
She told the Recorder the girl, who was revising for her A-levels, had arrived at Hope 4 Havering’s night shelter after finding she could not get housing benefit.
As the girl legally has a home – her parents’ – she is not entitled to support.
Havering Council has said it has not seen an increase in the number of people it has a duty to house.
It is awaiting the Mayor of London’s approval for a development which would bring 3,500 homes in Rainham.