Council criteria creates homeless ex-soldier because he is “not a drunk or drug addict”

Bournemouth Council has rejected a request for help from exactly the sort of person who we think should be entitled to priority assistance from the state.

Matthew Dennis served in the army for 9 years, becoming a Lance Corporal.  Following his career in the army, he became a kitchen fitter based in Bournemouth and worked continuously from the time he left the army in 2000 until recently.  Matthew was made redundant only when the company went into liquidation and subsequently he got into difficulties paying his rent.

After over 20 years as a contributor to society, paying taxes and spending almost half this time serving his Country’s interests in both Northern Ireland and Bosnia, Matthew then looked to his local council for assistance.

For context, the following is an excerpt from The Armed Forces Covenant:

The first duty of Government is the defence of the realm. Our Armed Forces fulfil that responsibility on behalf of the Government, sacrificing some civilian freedoms, facing danger and, sometimes, suffering serious injury or death as a result of their duty… In return, the whole nation has a moral obligation to the members of the Naval Service, the Army and the Royal Air Force, together with their families. They deserve our respect and support, and fair treatment.

Despite the Council’s evident moral duty enshrined, Housing Officers for Bournemouth considered his application and considered that he was not a vulnerable person and as such did not receive a priority status.

Mr Dennis said:

‘I do feel let down.

‘I went to the council for help. They said since I don’t have any problems with drugs or alcohol, I am not a priority.’

After several days sleeping rough, Mr Dennis is now in emergency bed and breakfast with the charity Homes4Heroes paying the £95.00 per week to keep Matthew off the streets.

David Wood, a co-ordinator for the charity said:

‘Matthew spent a few days sleeping rough before coming to us. He doesn’t know the benefits system. He has worked all his adult life and has served his country for nine years and this is the first time he has needed help. 

‘At first a guy in the housing office said there was a place available but he had to go and check with his supervisor. When he came back 10 minutes later he was told he was not a priority case as he was not vulnerable. 

‘There was no more assistance offered. I was disgusted. The Armed Forces Covenant outlines a duty of care our society owes our armed services, who have represented the country. 

‘Part of that duty is to ensure they are a priority for housing when they are vulnerable, as they are when they are on the streets exposed to the elements and attacks by others.’

Bournemouth Council claim that Mr Dennis was provided with advice and offered the option of applying for supported housing and refused.

A council spokesman stated that

‘Mr Dennis has the right to request a review of the decision made and we would be happy to re-visit the discussion on his housing options with him.’

Why would a homeless man refuse assistance?  Mr Dennis says that little useful information was provided.

Someone who has lived for over 20 years outside the state benefit system and served his country surely deserves more assistance in his hour of need to process his application and get a roof over his head than more seasoned benefits claimants.

Unfortunately, though, the council’s criteria does not reflect this belief. If you have any spare cash this Christmas, consider making a donation to:

LB / SJ                                                                                                                                       08.12.14

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