After his partner became unwell, Simon moved into her council flat to be a full-time carer, giving up work as a driver. They managed on his partner’s disability benefits and small cash-in-hand jobs. After 6 years, his partner died suddenly. Having never told the council about living in the property, he had no right to stay. Simon was evicted from the flat, returning one day to find the locks changed, unable to collect his belongings and documentation. After a period of rough sleeping, he developed a cough. Being previously well, he had no local GP so Simon tried to register but was turned away as he had no ID or proof of address. The cough got worse so he went to A&E. He said he felt “humiliated” being examined when he hadn’t been able to have a shower. He was given antibiotics but unfortunately they were stolen along with his bag two days later. Due to his experience in A&E, Simon didn’t want to go back to hospital.
One of our service users convinced Simon to see the nurse here at the centre. He was diagnosed with pneumonia and needed urgent admission to hospital. Reluctantly, he agreed to go and the nurse went with him for advocacy and support. Simon was subsequently admitted and felt he received good care in hospital. On discharge he came back to see the nurse and was helped to register with a GP and referred for treatment for his depression. Simon continued to see the nurses here at the centre regularly for health support until we found him accommodation and registered with a local GP.
The first time Tomas came to us for assistance was in 2009. He is a 45 years old Slovakian. He came here at that time because he found an advert about a job in London. He paid the fee to hold the job for him, bought a ticket and arrived to London to find out that it was a scam advert. Luckily someone directed him to the Manna Centre and one of our advice workers at the time assisted him in getting a National Insurance Number; to create a CV and to apply for jobs. Finally in 2010 he found employment in a bakery in Leeds and worked very hard there for 6 years. We did not seen him during this time.
He worked and was saving money for the future. He wanted to save money and go home to Slovakia. He came back to us again at the beginning of 2017. He was homeless again with no money and no work. What had happened? He had decided that he had saved enough and could now return home. He came to London to renew his passport. In the meantime he had lent most of his savings to his friend who was in a difficult situation and his friend never returned his money.
The little savings that he still had quickly ran out and he was homeless again in London. When he came to the centre he was really down. His plan of returning to Slovakia had to be postponed, he had already used up the rest of his savings to top up his phone, travel around and to search for work, but without success. He did not know that he was entitled to benefit and it was not his aim to claim them. He really wanted to find work. We advised him that he was entitled to claim contribution based universal credit and it would be very useful if he made a claim as it would enable us to help him with housing. He agreed to do so.
A few weeks later a friend of the advice worker who was working with Tomas called to ask if we knew of anyone who would be interested in warehouse work as her company was desperately looking for someone. We instantly thought of Tomas as he had proved to be a reliable worker in the past. We mentioned it to him and he was very keen to return to work. We arranged an interview for him and topped up his oyster card so he could get there.
Tomas was a bit anxious as he was not a very confident English speaker but his interview went well and he was offered the job! We were very happy that he had found employment once more and he was very grateful to be working again. Tomas was very happy with his hourly rate of pay, the best he had been offered since coming to the UK. He started work the following day.
We applied for a couple of grants to help him with transportation to work and a few nights at a backpacker’s hostel so he could get a decent night’s sleep. As he started to work in the middle of a month and the job was paid at the end of the month he still needed our support to take him up to his first pay day. He was doing nightshifts so we he could still come to the Manna for food and showers. We could see how tired and exhausted he was for the two weeks before his first payday; he had his head resting on the table trying to get a few hours’ sleep most days.
It requires huge determination to maintain a job while you have no proper place to rest. We asked him a couple times how he was doing and he always responded with a big smile “Do not worry. I will make it!” And he did, he survived until he received his first pay packet and rented a place to live. He is doing great at work and is very liked by his workmates. Such a positive outcome!
Chloe is a French-speaking lady. She had lost her previous accommodation as the landlord wanted to sell up. We found her a nice studio flat. Like many of our clients these days, she is in receipt of Universal Credit. Due to her lack of English, she was struggling to deal with rent arrears which were accruing. Unfortunately she came to see us rather late in the day when her arrears had climbed to nearly £6,000. We went to see the specialist Universal Credit worker based at the council offices for two reasons (a) to see if we could sort out the rent arrears and (b) to see if we could get help through the council’s Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) scheme to clear some of the arrears or get help with her ongoing payments as she is also subject to a benefit cap. This means she can only receive a set amount and after her rent is paid, she has a tiny income of £154 a month to live on.
We established that according to Universal Credit, payment of her housing costs were being paid direct to the landlord, so universal Credit were at fault there and got forms for the DHP. We also went to see her benefit adviser to see if she could be helped. First off, they agreed to supply her with a half-price travel pass so that she could save on her travel costs to seek work. If she gets work the benefit cap will be lifted and hopefully, that will ease her financial trouble. We are also looking to get a grant towards her utility costs as she cannot heat her flat at the moment due to her very straitened circumstances. Due to her lack of familiarity with English, we are accompanying her to key appointments as this seems a very necessary thing at this stage to protect her interests. We hope that once her situation is stable, we can introduce her to a French-speaking advice service so that her life is made easier.
Nicola is a 43 year old woman who was no longer able to work after she developed long term health problems. She was on statutory sick pay for a while, but when this ran out she was no longer able to pay her rent. She sofa-surfed with a friend whose son was at university but when the son returned, she could not stay there either. She approach the council for help with emergency accommodation but was refused and asked to provide further evidence of her health problems and housing history. At this point she was sleeping in parks and on buses. She then accessed the Manna Centre. We wrote a supporting letter to the council, making the case why we believed she was entitled to emergency accommodation from them. After going back and presenting the letter, she was placed into temporary accommodation by the council.
She came back a couple of weeks later with a letter stating she was getting into arrears in her temporary accommodation. She explained that no one had told her how to pay her rent. We helped her to apply for housing costs through Universal Credit, and called the DWP explaining the urgency of the situation to make sure the request was processed quickly. We also added her to an email list meaning she would get sent daily information regarding available properties in the private sector whose landlords accepted housing benefit, so that she could find a property for herself in the long term.