Why lifelines are not always thrown to Wigan homeless

You cannot get emergency housing if you have made yourself homeless
You cannot get emergency housing if you have made yourself homeless

More than 45 per cent of applications for emergency housing were turned down by Wigan Council last year, new figures show.

Data obtained by the Wigan Post through the Freedom of Information Act show that out of 306 local people asked the local authority for help with a place to live in 2017, 138 were unsuccessful.

There were 168 successful applicants, who were placed into temporary accommodation; a percentage of 54.9.

The data also revealed varied reasons for the 138 rejections.

One person was turned away because they were unable to provide proof of their right to live and work in the UK. There were even 33 applications turned down because they were deemed to be “intentionally homeless.”

Guidance on Wigan Council’s website outlines how officials determine if “it is your fault that you are homeless.”

It clarifies that this means “you have done something which caused you to be homeless”, such as: residents’ not paying their rent or mortgage when they could afford to, getting into debt knowing they couldn’t pay it back without losing their home, or purposely creating a situation knowing it would lead them to becoming homeless.”

If such cases, town hall officials say they will only be able to offer advice and assistance to find somewhere to live.

A further 33 applications were also thrown out because the applicants did not have a priority need, as set out by the council as:

Being pregnant, aged 16-17, having a child under the age of 16 (or 17-18 if still in school).

Being vulnerable because of age or disability.

Being made homeless due to a fire, flood or disaster, or being forced out of their home to escape violence or abuse.

Two out of the 306 applications came from people who were found to have no local connection to the borough, such as family members or a job in the area, but were still successful in finding a place to live.

But the council was quick to stress that just because some people did not meet the criteria, it did not mean they would just be left out on the streets.

Director for adult social care Stuart Cowley (pictured) said: “Wigan is working extremely hard to proactively tackle the issue of homelessness with a number of initiatives ongoing.

“Together with colleagues from nine other Greater Manchester boroughs we have secured social impact bond funding to tackle homelessness and entrenched rough sleeping. We are working with our partners at The Brick project to deliver the scheme which will see individuals supported into housing by Asset Coaches and Independent Living Mentors.

“Shortly we will be opening the first of two emergency accommodation hubs with wrap around support in the borough. This is a new and innovative approach aimed at supporting people with complex needs.

“We have also developed strong relationships with partner agencies, both voluntary and statutory to ensure we meet individual’s needs, achieve the best outcomes for clients and deliver a joined up approach to homelessness.”

Wigan Council has a triage service to provide advice and support to all clients who are threatened with homelessness, or are in housing difficulty.

Under homeless legislation, it is necessary to satisfy several criteria in order to identify if an applicant is able to be given priority for urgent rehousing.

While not all applicants meet the criteria set down by legislation, all applicants do receive advice and assistance in order to resolve their housing difficulty.