The council has announced that it has managed to house six people under a scheme which should provide 10 homeless people with homes by the end of next month, and another 10 over the course of the following 12 months.
It is doing so working with a charity which was accused of breaking the trust of homeless people for its part in the Conservative government’s “hostile environment” policy against foreign nationals staying in this country.
Croydon Council continues to work on the government-funded scheme with Thames Reach, a homelessness charity that has previously worked closely with the Home Office to repatriate foreign nationals who have come to them for assistance.
Thames Reach’s role in passing on the details of its clients to the immigration service saw civil liberties campaigners accuse the Tory government of having a “border on every street” policy.
According to a council press release issued this week, the “project is based on the principles of Housing First, where vulnerable homeless people receive accommodation on the sole condition that they maintain their tenancy, rather than needing to meet more detailed criteria. This means that the person can settle into their accommodation, get the support they need and become less likely to return to the streets.”
With Thames Reach being involved in the process, there is a possibility that some homeless people approaching the charity for help could be returned to their home country, under a Home Office initiative that was introduced in 2016.
Last year, Croydon Council worked with Thames Reach on another scheme intended to clear the town centre of beggars.
In London, more than half of rough sleepers are not from the UK.
When the involvement of Thames Reach in passing details to the immigration service was exposed, Martha Spurrier, director of Liberty, told The Guardian: “Using homeless charities to spy on the homeless is a new low, even for a government bent on bringing border controls into every corner of our lives.
“Turning unaccountable citizens into immigration officers can only lead to racial profiling, discrimination and alienation, raising tensions in already divided communities.”
Croydon’s Labour-run council does not appear to have any qualms about working as partners with Thames Reach on its scheme, however. The first flat, a one-bedroom property in Upper Norwood, became available in December and an additional five flats across the borough are now being used for the council scheme.
As well as getting their own accommodation and help with sourcing furniture, each tenant is supported by a key worker to help them access a range of support services, including health, help with skills and employability, training and benefits. The accommodation includes a combination of council, private sector and housing association properties.
The project has been funded with more than £500,000 from the government’s rough sleeping initiative. The council has not said whether, as a condition of receiving this cash, its social workers or Thames Reach are obliged to report overseas nationals to the Home Office for possible deportation.
“Housing First is all about giving former rough sleepers an improved, more independent future, and I look forward to continuing to work with our partners to improve outcomes for even more of our residents,” was the quote attributed to Alison Butler, the Labour council’s cabinet member for homelessness and building private flats.
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