Josef's story

Josef's story

There are many reasons people become homeless or find themselves in dire straits; abuse, addiction, revenge eviction. What about bureaucracy? While there are safety nets in place to help, some people fall victim to not knowing how the system works and therefore don't know how  to get access to available  support. Fortunately, the Cardinal Hume Centre is well versed in the language of red tape. Every day we stop families in poverty from falling through the holes in the net; families like Josef's. Josef first came to the Centre in 2010, after fleeing his home country of Eritrea  " a country often condemned  by the UN for its terrible human rights record. He was granted refugee status and referred to our hostel for homeless young people. The Centre provides  homeless people aged 16-25 a safe place to call home for up to a year. During his time here he  improved his confidence and English skills, but he hadn't developed enough to become fully independent,  so after a year he  moved into another hostel - Bruce House, run by Centrepoint.

In October 2013, the Cardinal Hume Centre opened Basil Hume House;  five one bedroom  flats attached to our main site. They provide a more long term and independent home for young people who have established a life for themselves in the local area, but may struggle to display the financial stability required to get their own tenancy.  Josef was a perfect tenant for the project. Josef dreamed of being a black cab driver, covering his walls with maps of London to help him get  the knowledge.  In the meantime he considered himself lucky to have a job on a central construction site. However, his life became a lot more complicated when, in the middle of 2014, he became  a father. He wanted to care for  his girlfriend and new born, but the flats are strictly single occupancy. Without being able to afford the huge costs of a private tenancy, Josef felt he had no choice but to move them  in without telling anyone at the Centre. Of course, he should have known that had he told the housing team they would have simply  congratulated him and  offered the support needed to find a more suitable home for his family.

So when the staff  inevitably found out what had happened, that is exactly what they did. Housing officer, Mohammad Najm-Zadeh, who has responsibility for the residents of Basil Hume House, applied to Westminster Housing Options  (WHO) on Josef's behalf in the summer of 2014. However, as unsuitable  as his small flat at the Centre  was, the fact that he had a flat meant that WHO didn't categorise  the family as homeless. The Centre was faced with a difficult decision but it was agreed that the best thing for the family was to issue them with a formal eviction. This meant they were now 'homeless at home', and qualified for temporary accommodation. However this wasn't the end of the story. Mohammad recalls what happened next: "Josef's a very pleasant character. It's difficult for him to say no, a very agreeable person. The only time I've seen him angry was when Housing Options offered him and his family a house  in West Cliff-on-Sea [Southend]. The cost of commuting to his labouring job would have been near half of his  £1000 monthly salary! But if he had refused the house they would have been listed as 'intentionally homeless' and WHO would  have no obligation to help the family."

Refusing to take a house that would remove your ability to provide for  your family  seems instinctive, but it  could  make a desperate situation far worse. Our housing team were there to support Josef at every step of this process, so he didn't make this mistake, but many don't have someone knowledgeable to advise and advocate for them and can find they have nowhere left to turn. Everyday we help people who have fallen victim of  rules they weren't aware of. Thanks to Mohammad and the Centre housing team, WHO  accepted that the house  offered was unsuitable for Josef's family. Josef  now lives in accommodation within London, much closer to his work, and  looks forward to  the day when his driver's license is old enough for him to drive a black cab. Had it not been for  the Cardinal Hume Centre, a young couple and their baby could have ended up with no roof over their head. The Centre provides the patience, empathy and expert knowledge required  to turn lives around. Read our CEO's blog post on 'Poverty of Information'. A stock image has been used.

clients were welcomed and supported
young people were given a home in our hostel
vulnerable children attended our School Holiday or Family Saturday's projects