Homeless mum waiting six years for a house is pushed to back of queue after split from husband

By Robert Firth, Local Democracy

A homeless mum who has been waiting for a council home for more than six years faces a further wait in temporary accommodation after council pushed her to the back of the queue when she split up with her husband. 

Lambeth council told Patricia Roman that her application for council housing would be dated February 2023 after she requested help from the local authority following her family’s eviction by a landlord in late 2022. 

But the mum-of-three was left puzzled by the start date on her housing account, as her family had originally made an application for council housing with Lambeth more than five years earlier in September 2017.

She soon realised the council had not backdated the family’s housing account to 2017 because the original application was made in her ex-husband’s name. 

Her solicitor has since twice asked the council to change the date on her housing account to 2017, but it has so far failed to reply to the requests. 

As the council gives priority to families who have been on the housing waiting list longer, Ms Roman and her three kids now face years more in temporary accommodation due to losing their waiting time.

Ms Roman, 41, said: “I applied in 2017. I think they should respect that. So far it has been six years waiting. It would help that I don’t have to wait more years for a house and it would give stability to my family. 

“Without any answer, there’s just uncertainty. I feel ignored – as if time does not matter. I feel the council are not serious in their work because they have ignored me. 

“Their job is to help people by giving them information, not to ignore them.” 

Patricia took her case to the High Court in a bid to get the council to respond to her request. 

Lambeth argued it didn’t have the freedom to decide to backdate her housing account under its housing policy. 

But in February, a High Court judge said the council did have ‘discretion’ to backdate applications, according to its Housing Allocation Scheme. 

The judge ordered Lambeth to make a decision on Ms Roman’s request within 28 days. The council’s response is due imminently. 

Support group Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth (HASL), which has been assisting Ms Roman throughout her battle, branded the council’s refusal to backdate her housing application “cruel”’. 

HASL said: “It seems hard to believe, but it’s true: Lambeth council went all the way to the High Court to try and refuse a homeless family a backdate of their housing register account. 

“The only reason Patricia was asking for a backdate was because Lambeth council made her start again when she separated from her husband, which resulted in her losing more than five years of waiting time. 

“This policy would potentially trap women with abusive partners for fear of losing their housing list waiting time if they were to leave.

“Those at the worst end of the housing crisis have been forced yet again to hold Lambeth council to account and enforce basic decency in the face of this appalling treatment. 

“It’s deeply depressing to think about the sheer amount of public money and resources that Lambeth council used to fight this case against a homeless family.”

Lambeth council was contacted for comment on Ms Roman’s case but had failed to reply at the time of publication.

Pictured top: Patricia Roman and her children spend more than four hours a day travelling to and back from school (Picture: Patricia Roman)

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