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3 November 2021

David, a 56-year-old street cleaner, was queuing for takeaway food from Ace of Clubs (a Glass Door partner day centre) July 2021, when he heard someone speaking Spanish. His ears pricked up at the familiar sound. David is originally from the West African country of Guinea and has lived in the UK for 14 years, but his English isn’t perfect. He communicates better in Spanish after living in Spain for 18 years before arriving to the UK. 

Connecting with Patricia 

David approached the Spanish speaker, who turned out to be Glass Door senior caseworker Patricia. Patricia is based at Ace of Clubs in Clapham most weekdays, offering one-to-one support with issues such as housing, benefits and employment, to help people find routes out of homelessness.

David, who was newly street homeless at the time, needed Patricia’s help. He had been kicked out of the house he had been living in for four years without warning. It turned out that, unbeknownst to him, he had been living there illegally, subletting a room from a friend of the landlord without their permission.

When the landlord found out, she kicked David out and took away his keys. He didn’t even get the chance to take his belongings with him. She also refused to return his rent for the month, so he could not afford to find a new place. David had no legal standing as his name was not on the tenancy agreement, and he was left with no choice but to sleep on the streets.

Stories like this are common, says Patricia.

“Many people with poor English language skills find themselves in situations similar to David’s. Language barriers mean they are unable to access, or don’t know about, the usual routes to finding housing, such as using agencies or SpareRoom. They rely instead on word of mouth, often finding accommodation that is off the books and without formal agreements in place.

It’s a precarious position to be in – they have no rights and can lose their housing at a moment’s notice.

David reported the incident to the police, but all they did was notify his local council and give him the number for StreetLink (a service which connects rough sleepers with street outreach teams). He didn’t hear back from the police after that. David felt like he had exhausted all options until he met Patricia.

Accessing vital support 

The first question Patricia asked David was if he had pre-settled or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS). If David had applied to the EUSS and been granted settled status, he would have been eligible for government support such as universal credit, which would have enabled him to access extra funds to help pay his rent and living costs.

David told Patricia that he had never heard of the Scheme. He knew about Brexit but wasn’t aware that he had to make a separate application to remain in the UK and access state support.

Patricia notes:

His lack of English and friends or community in the UK left him particularly isolated and vulnerable to the point where he was not aware of his rights or the support he could access.

David had missed the 30 June 2021 deadline for applying to the EUSS, but luckily his situation fell into the late application list of reasons to justify missing it. Despite having an expired Spanish passport and not having the paperwork to prove he’d been living the UK for five consecutive years, Patricia was able to make a successful application on David’s behalf using his HMRC records.

Moving into temporary accommodation

While Patricia made headway on David’s EUSS application, she also supported him with a StreetLink referral and a Homeless Application, so that he could be taken off the streets and placed in temporary accommodation.

David remains in temporary accommodation provided by his local council to this day, while they support him to find a flat in the private rental sector, which he will pay for with his salary. They will also support him with a deposit.

If it wasn’t for Patricia’s efforts to make a late application for the EUSS, David would not have been eligible for support from his local authority, and he would most likely have fallen deeper into homelessness.

Glass Door guest, David, sits outside with a pastry and coffee

David told Patricia:

I was sleeping on the street, and you changed my life. I am living in England for 14 years and nobody has ever helped me so much with my problems like you did. Glass Door is like a family! I have no words to express how thankful I am.

Patricia reflects on David’s experience, and the experiences of others who have found themselves in similar positions:

“People like David can fall through the cracks so easily, whether it’s because they lack English language skills or are unable to navigate the complex welfare system. That’s why Glass Door’s open access policy is so important. We help everyone who turns to us for support, no matter their nationality, local connection or immigration status.”

If you’d like to support our work, so that we can continue to help people like David, please donate.