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Will* has been supported by Glass Door for eight years. Now 61 years old, he used to teach arts and crafts at a community centre for people affected by homelessness. When the funding was cut because it wasn’t considered ‘essential,’ he eventually became homeless himself and was forced to sleep on the streets. It was bitterly cold.

*Not his real name

Will just wants to work - have a routine, some stability. He’s been working since he was 15 years old. Because of his health, he’s not able to anymore.   

Finding Glass Door 

One day he found the day centre at Chelsea Methodist Church, which partners with Glass Door. There, he could have a hot drink and lunch. He could also chat to one of Glass Door’s homelessness expert caseworkers, Neil, for advice, and he found out about the Glass Door night shelter.  While staying in the night shelter, he got the support he needed from Neil to find a more permanent housing solution.

Glass Door also provided him with computer courses. In an increasingly technological society, computer courses give guests a vital connection to the outside world, so they don’t feel left behind. Jason, Glass Door’s Employability Coordinator, helped him with his CV which was a much-needed confidence booster. 

Moving on 

After moving into his own flat, another Glass Door casework, Chandni contacted him to offer ongoing support.  

“Chandni, is a saint,” he says.  Will was struggling to access vital financial support because it was difficult to prove his illness. Despite previous failed attempts, Chandni was able to help him successfully apply straightaway. At first, he says he felt embarrassed to confide in Chandni – like a lot of men of his generation, opening up isn’t easy.  

Glass Door has been my foundation. It's a fantastic, positive environment.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, Will would visit the day centre almost every day – it was a place to get a hot drink and catch up with friends, have a sense of belonging. Some of the people he met there became his best friends, but since the pandemic he hasn’t been able to see them in over two years.  

Ongoing housing issues 

The only place he could find to live was an expensive studio flat in a HMO (house in multiple occupation.) This is increasingly common among our guests – many who are at their most vulnerable find themselves in highly expensive, poorly managed flats in the private-rented sector because so few accept tenants on benefits. He doesn’t like that word, ‘vulnerable’ - but looking back, he accepts he was vulnerable at that point. 

Many people who are trying to escape homelessness end up in the private rented sector because of the chronic lack of social housing. These housing agencies charge as much as they can, well aware of the maximum amount benefits can cover. As well as being expensive, they’re also often badly maintained. Local housing allowance (LHA) doesn’t always cover the cost of rent*, and with benefit caps in place, guests like Will often don’t have enough funds to live on.  

Will's studio flat

Above: Will's studio flat, £1060 a month

Will’s studio flat is small and cramped. He says it’s a ‘nasty place to be’. Without his knowledge or forewarning, the building changed from being a residential building into an accommodation specifically for ex-offenders, highlighting the lack of control renters have over the homes they pay so much to live in. He ‘doesn’t feel safe’ in his flat and finds it hard to relax, he says. 

As well as being expensive, they’re also often badly maintained. Guests like Will often don’t have enough funds to live on.  

Rent is £1060 a month, which he pays on top of his increasing energy bills and other utilities. He wants to move on but it’s almost impossible to find a landlord that accepts people on benefits.  

When the pandemic calms down, Will wants to start volunteering and help people who were struggling like he was. While we chat, he receives a phone call from a friend about a flat he could move into. Next month, his landlord wants to increase the rent by 12%. 

* Under the current regulatory environment, housing allowance takes priority over other benefits under the benefit cap. The benefit cap is a limit of the total amount of benefits an individual can receive. Therefore, for people renting from private landlords, the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) is used to calculate the amount of housing allowance to which an individual is entitled. If an individual’s rent is higher than the LHA rate, the rent will be fully covered up to the cap—but the individual will have their standard allowance reduced by rent above the LHA rate which leaves tenants with very little to live. 

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