BY TOBY PORTER
Campaigners occupied a town hall in protest at the treatment of domestic violence survivors.
Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth (HASL) staged a protest at Southwark council’s town hall, backing two of their members who are both being threatened with eviction from temporary accommodation.
Their landlord is Southwark council, which says the women are not vulnerable enough to qualify for a council flat. But the women say the town hall’s treatment of them has been like suffering abuse again.
HASL called on Southwark council and cabinet member for housing Stephanie Cryan to guarantee both women will not be evicted.
The group also called on the council to improve its support for survivors of domestic violence and ensure that all survivors can access safe, secure council housing, which is vital to moving on with their lives.
In November 2016, Cllr Cryan promised to improve support for survivors of domestic violence, but HASL state that their members’ cases show how vulnerable women are still being failed with devastating consequences.
One member, known as ‘L’, said: “The whole process has made me seriously ill. I’ve been bullied by council officials in the initial assessment and I’ve lost count of the eviction threats, there have been so many.
“They have lied about me and made me feel horrendous with their 17-page letters saying why they think I’m not vulnerable.
“Going through this process is not for the faint-hearted.
“It is only through support from others that I have not had a breakdown.
“The end result is they have left a shell of a person from somebody already surviving abuse, mental health and recovery from addiction and other issues.
“It is in direct opposition to the council’s Solace campaign to support survivors. I just hope none of them ever have to go through this in their life as wouldn’t wish it on anyone.”
Elizabeth Wyatt, a member of the group, said: Our two members are vulnerable women who have fled domestic violence.
“As well as suffering abuse, they are both dealing with health issues which affect their daily lives. There can be no doubt that these women are highly vulnerable and desperately need the security of a full homeless duty, yet Southwark council has done everything to deny them this.
“Both women have faced numerous eviction attempts by the council, which has worsened their mental health.
“The council’s assessment process has been degrading and traumatising for the women who have found their every action scrutinised and questioned and false information written about them. Southwark council must support these women and urgently review their homelessness processes which our members have been subjected to.”
Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth are a community group of homeless households, families living in overcrowded housing and others facing housing problems.
They support each other with housing problems and fight together for the good quality, safe, secure council homes all need and deserve.
Cllr Cryan, cabinet member for housing management and modernisation, said: “I have been in contact with the lady concerned, and am confident that the council is doing everything we can to support her.
“We have been trying to help her move from a temporary hostel which is intended only for emergencies, into a more stable and permanent home, and have identified a number of properties in the private sector for her but she has refused all our offers of assistance.
“We also agreed that she can continue to bid for council housing, but unfortunately like most councils, we simply don’t have a ready supply of council homes for everyone who would like them.
“Although we are building thousands more, we will always struggle to meet demand. We have to prioritise, and in this case we are confident the resident’s immediate needs can be best met in the private sector.”