This year is expected to see the highest number of possession orders granted and landlords are lobbying to make evictions even swifter. Meanwhile, local councils are guarding their housing offices against these new homeless applicants. Housing officers use various so-called “gatekeeping” tactics to prevent homeless applications from being made, and then to make the process as difficult as possible if the applicant does get past the first barriers (…) Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth (HASL) first visited Southwark’s Peckham housing office just over a year ago in support of one of our members. On that first visit, as we desperately tried to get Mary the housing to which she was entitled, we were confronted by a manager who shouted at us and then stormed away before we could say anything. Other staff members that day told us – in classically disingenuous gatekeeping style – that being in rent arrears meant she wasn’t eligible for help. Another told us we could only get her help from social services. This was our first experience of abusive treatment and disrespect from staff who steadfastly refused to help. From that first visit, it was clear things were not as they should be in the housing office. On subsequent attempts to support our members, we were again berated and refused the right to sit in on a member’s housing interview – despite requests for interview support. The gatekeeping in this case involved the punitive treatment of Elena and her family over numerous gruelling day-long visits. On two occasions when we were leafleting outside, we had the police called on us by the housing office staff. Security staff have on other occasions refused to show their security ID, and threatened to physically assault us. They have snatched leaflets from our hands. Multiple times, they totally shut down the housing office, refusing anybody entry, simply because of the presence of one or two people leafleting outside. When the housing office is functioning and open, many of us have been denied entry to the building to support our members who have requested that we accompany them. When we challenge gatekeeping, the housing office goes into lock-down, as if it could not function if forced to meet its legal duties to people.
Izzy Koksal in Up Against the Housing Gatekeepers (Wire)