Housing: Successful review of decision recognise an individual who was “couching surfing” as homeless.
CLM represented a client who attended one of our free legal advice clinics looking for support around his housing situation. CLM provided him with support on a number of issues. In particular, at the time, he had no fixed place of address and was “couch surfing” between friends’ homes. He previously lived with his partner in social housing until they separated. He then lived with his parents until he was asked to leave. The client has a young son with whom he has overnight access for two nights a week. However, due to his circumstances, he was unable to arrange this access on a regular basis. The client attended the Homeless Section of his local authority to apply to be recognised as homeless. He was refused homeless status on the grounds that he had not accessed emergency accommodation.
CLM wrote to the local authority and their legal agent calling for a review of the decision and noting that utilisation of emergency accommodation is not a prerequisite to homeless status in circumstances where the applicant is unable to provide accommodation from his own resources and there is no accommodation available in which he can reasonably be expected to reside. After several letters, the local authority still refused to recognise our client as homeless. CLM briefed counsel and commenced the process of initiating judicial review proceedings. With the assistance of counsel, CLM issued warning letters confirming that it was prepared to initiate judicial review proceedings if matters were not addressed. On the day of the leave application, the local authority agreed to review the decision to refuse to recognise our client as homeless.
As a result of CLM’s intervention, the local authority agreed to examine our client’s circumstances and review its decision. The client was invited to an interview where he could outline his circumstances and demonstrate that although he had not accessed emergency accommodation, he was in fact homeless. This case highlights that accessing emergency accommodation is not necessarily a perquisite to homeless status.