A homeless girl was “not eligible” for council housing because she was sleeping rough.
Shadacia White, 18, from Brent, spent a many childhood nights sofa-surfing, sleeping in storage units, and once bedded down at Heathrow Airport.
Brent Council have now overturned a decision which ruled that Shadacia’s family were ineligible for the housing waiting list.
The 18-year-old’s family should fall into a high priority category due to their homelessness, her adult brother’s autism, and her hearing impairment.
She reached out to teachers last year about being terrified of spending cold nights during the pandemic on the cold streets of London.
The school helped her fight for an address but progress soon came to a halt when they hit a barrier to the vital support.
Shadacia was “stunned” to learn her family were not eligible for social housing.
After getting the decision reversed, she is now bidding on a property so she can move her family in as she studies marketing at university.
Shadacia said: “I just thought, ‘how can that make sense as surely homeless people need homes the most?’
“I was shocked that they had this policy as they are supposed to be helping people who need it most, but they are refusing to allow homeless people to apply for council houses. It’s just crazy.
“I felt like an underdog. I was angry, sad and just confused at the same time – I need the help, I can’t get it, and it’s a massive hit in the face.
“It made me feel like dirt, that’s what the council made me feel like.”
Brent Council’s housing allocation scheme uses an alphabetic priority system, from D, the lowest, to A, the highest.
Homeless residents are automatically placed in band D, which means they have “no priority”.
There are exceptions to the rule, like when the individual has a serious health condition, but the criteria-checking process takes at least eight weeks, but usually several months, MyLondon reports.
Lawyers at Osborne’s Law in Camden say the council must give “reasonable preference” to the borough’s homeless, meaning that their current system is unlawful.
Shadacia and her family managed to get her case overturned and are now on the housing list while living in temporary accommodation.
Despite winning this part of the battle, the family could be moved outside London because of their “low income”.
Osborne’s Law made a Freedom of Information request from the council, which revealed 847 homeless Brent residents have been banned from getting a council home over the past eight years.
Shadacia, commenting on the figures, said: “While I am so relieved that I have been placed on the list there are hundreds more being placed in a terrible position of being homeless and then not being able to get on a housing list because they are homeless.
“It’s a ridiculous catch-22 situation and I am determined to keep fighting until Brent change their policy to give all homeless people a chance of getting somewhere permanent to live.
“It’s important to me because when I get moved all over the place [in temporary accommodation] I hear the same stories, and it seems like everyone feels like they can’t say anything.
“The fact that my mum was thinking she’d just live the way she’s been living for the rest of her life made me think ‘no, something actually needs to change’.
“I wanted to defeat the stupidity of Brent Council, that’s how I feel. It just doesn’t make any sense.”
Sam O’Flaherty, a lawyer at Osbornes Law, who represents Shadacia, said: “Brent Council has been unlawfully denying hundreds of homeless applicants their right to bid on the housing list.
“What is most concerning is that this policy appears to have been in place for eight years and may have affected many more people than the council has on record, because of the way it records the data and the risk that it will not always recognise that someone meets the legal definition of ‘homeless’.
“While we are pleased that the council has placed Shadacia on the housing list, it is shocking that they did not change their policy for everybody.
“It is a testament to the type of person Shadacia is that she is seeking this judicial review.
“Even though she has won her own case she is committed to helping the hundreds of vulnerable people in need of a home but who have been unlawfully abandoned by a policy leaving them homeless.”