'Struggling' teen taking Brent Council to court over its homeless policies
- Credit: Osborne's Law
A homeless teenager is taking Brent Council to the High Court for "unlawfully" banning hundreds of homeless people from getting a permanent place to live.
Shadacia White spent her childhood "sofa surfing" and currently lives in temporary accommodation with her mother and brother.
The 18-year-old, who is due to start studying marketing at university this month, "was stunned" when she was told she would not be considered for a home by Brent Council despite being statutory homeless.
Thanks to intervention from her school and help from housing litigation specialists at Osborne's Law, she successfully overturned Brent's decision and has now been placed on the housing list and able to bid for a property.
But despite her victory Shadacia is seeking to judicially review Brent Council’s policy to “achieve justice” for all of the hundreds of homeless people who have been prevented from bidding for housing for the past eight years, treating them as "no priority".
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“When I turned 18 I applied to be put on the housing list to get a place of my own and I was stunned when I was told I couldn’t be on the list because I am homeless," she said.
"I just thought how can that make sense as surely homeless people need homes the most? I was shocked that they had this policy as they are supposed to be helping people who need it most, but they are refusing to allow homeless people to apply for council houses. It’s just crazy.
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“Osbornes managed to get my case overturned but this unjust and unlawful policy is still in place so that some of the most vulnerable people in society remain homeless.
"As a result, I am continuing my legal fight to help others so that Brent changes this inhumane policy.”
She added: “The last few years have been a struggle and there were times when mum took us to Heathrow to sleep as we had nowhere else to go.
"Mum would just walk around all day in the cold. I went into school and told them what was happening and that I just wanted somewhere warm to stay and they got me a social worker and temporary accommodation.
“While I am so relieved that I have been placed on the list there are hundreds more being placed in a terrible position of being homeless and then not being able to get on a housing list because they are homeless.
"It’s a ridiculous catch-22 situation and I am determined to keep fighting until Brent change their policy to give all homeless people a chance of getting somewhere permanent to live.”
A Freedom of Information request by Osbornes Law has revealed that 847 homeless people have been barred from getting a home by the council in the past eight years.
Brent Council’s allocation scheme places applicants in priority bands D to A, where A is the highest priority. People in higher priority bands will out-bid people in lower priority bands who express an interest in the same property on Brent’s housing register.
People in band D are not allowed to bid at all, unless the council has accepted a 'main housing duty'.
Osborne's solicitor Sam O’Flaherty, representing Shadacia, said: “Brent Council has been unlawfully denying hundreds of homeless applicants their right to bid on the housing list.
"What is most concerning is that this policy appears to have been in place for eight years and may have affected many more people than the council has on record, because of the way it records the data and the risk that it will not always recognise that someone meets the legal definition of "homeless".
Mr O' Flaherty said it was "testament to the type of person Shadacia is" that she is seeking a judicial review. "Even though she has won her own case she is committed to helping the hundreds of vulnerable people in need of a home but who have been unlawfully abandoned by a policy leaving them homeless,” he added.
Brent Council told Osborne's that it "did not know about the issue with their policy" until Shadacia’s solicitors wrote to them on March 11 raising it.
The council has agreed to change its policy to allow the homeless unlawfully excluded under the present allocation scheme to bid for housing under an amended scheme, but it has said that this will not take place until at least January or February 2022 because of their consultation and approval procedures.
However, Mr O'Flaherty believes Brent's plans could still leave many homeless households unable to bid for social housing, and that the extent of the delay is "not justified".
The High Court listing is due to take place on October 27.
Brent Council has been contacted.