Substandard temporary accommodation update – July 2016

Individuals experiencing homelessness do not only sleep in visible places, but sometimes find their way into B&B accommodation. This is accommodation typically licensed as a HMO (House of Multiple Occupancy) and is a place from which tenants can claim housing benefit.

The B&Bs are often of a poor standard and many tenants report issues around conditions, costs, worsening mental and physical health and a general lack of control in their lives. Individuals find their way into B&Bs along various pathways such as self-referral, probation services, mental health services, hospital discharges and voluntary sector placements.

This is a hidden population of homelessness, living in a type of temporary accommodation about which there is little understanding or coordinated efforts for support.

As part of the homelessness charter, the B&B action group has come together in order to address this hidden and complex part of the homelessness and housing system. We have had two meetings in which we discussed the problem in order to reach a common understanding, developed working objectives and discussed actions toward achieving these objectives. This is what we’ve decided:

  • B&Bs present complicated barriers for their tenants that prevent control or general positive health and wellbeing.
  • We need to have a clear understanding of:
    • where they are
    • who typically finds their way into them
    • how much they might be expected to pay
    • what condition they are in
    • what could realistically change now for tenants.
  • In order to do this the group is working towards compiling a list that can be shared across agencies who have a connection with the B&Bs or their tenants.

Encouraging Signs – Collaboration

Various agencies involved in B&Bs are willing to be in the action group and speak about ways to make change. We are having realistic and honest conversations across sector, from Revenues and Benefits to the Fire Service, Environmental Health to the Homeless Mental Health Team, Individual with lived experience to voluntary sector services. It is encouraging the level and willingness to collaborate that we have witnessed across both meetings.

Challenges – Conditions

Tenants often speak about problems around conditions but whenever the properties are inspected they are compliant and reach the minimum standard. How do we encourage reporting or the raising of standards where needed? This is an ongoing conversation within the group.