'There's not a shortage of flats in Salford; there's a shortage of ethics...'
Two weeks ago, the Salford Star met a guy who was made homeless when Salix Homes evicted him from his house for rent arrears. The arrears were cleared just after the court hearing and this bloke was actually £300 in credit; but the bailiffs moved in anyway.
However, as far as this article goes, the bloke's back story and name are irrelevant. The point is that he was put out on the streets and made homeless by Salix Homes – but Salix Homes also has the contract with Salford Council for managing homelessness.
How does that work? It doesn't because, since Salford Council's social housing stock in East and Central Salford was privatised, or 'transferred' to Salix, they are a law unto themselves. They're not going to chuck this bloke out of one home, only to sort him out with another. So he became a rough sleeper statistic.
In October, Salford City Council extended the £1.377million a year contract with Salix Homes to manage 'homelessness, housing advice, allocations and supported tenancies services' in the city.
The contract was agreed by just four Cabinet members – Salford City Mayor, Paul Dennett, together with Deputy Mayors John Merry and Paula Boshell, and Finance Lead, Bill Hinds - with the report and details kept secret; in Part 2 of the Procurement Board meeting due to 'customer confidentiality'.
The decision notice merely states; "The services are providing good quality overall, meeting contract requirements and specifications. There are no performance reasons why the council should not want these services to continue to be delivered by Salix Homes in the near future."
Any conflict of interest issues were not even mentioned. With Salix not an option, this bloke sat in the car of the Star editor, while phone calls were made trying to get him somewhere to stay. It was a Friday, after 4pm, and everyone seemed to have gone home.
Phone lines to agencies were on answerphone, every hostel contacted was full or was asking for a referral, and the Council offices were closed, although a message was passed onto the emergency social worker.
In the meantime, we tried cheap B&Bs which were all full, and we even phoned the illegal squat in Manchester – but that was full to bursting too.
The bloke wanted to be dropped off at Regent Road Retail Park, and on the short drive from Swinton, down the Crescent, we passed sites for literally hundreds and hundreds of new 'luxury apartments'. There's not a shortage of flats in Salford; there's a shortage of ethics.
The guy phoned us later and said that the emergency Council social worker had been in touch and had sorted him three nights out of the city at a B&B in Sale. This was 1:30am. He subsequently told us that he'd walked there as there were no buses.
That was around two weeks ago. Since then, the bloke got another three nights accommodation sorted out in Bolton but collapsed with stress before he could get there and was taken into Salford Royal Hospital. When he was discharged, he slept in the reception as there was nowhere else to go. The night after, we understand, he slept in Chorlton Street Bus Station.
Agencies and voluntary organisations have since been trying to help with clothes and food but still there's no home in sight. He's bottom of the list when it comes to housing – a single man (even though he has an estranged partner and children); classed as 'intentionally homeless', with no drug or alcohol problems, and no disability. Just someone fallen on hard times. And now on the streets.
Meanwhile, Salix Homes are continuing to seek evictions from its properties for those with arrears and other issues. There is one impending court case for evicting a disabled man for, basically, complaining about his property – or 'causing nuisance and annoyance to the Claimant's employees, agents, servants or contractors', in legal speak. If successful, Salix will be evicting a disabled person onto the streets.
Today, the shocking Shelter report came out, with Salford having the second highest level of homelessness in the North West. Questions must be asked whether Salix are part of the solution – or part of the problem...
The Salford Star asked Salix Homes to comment on the case of the homeless man mentioned in this article – and to comment on a potential conflict of interest surrounding the £1.3million contract to manage 'homelessness, housing advice, allocations and supported tenancies services' in the city...
Salix didn't respond to the specific questions but stated: "Salix Homes does not believe it is fair to comment on individual cases. Eviction is always a last resort and we endeavour to support and engage with residents who accrue significant levels of arrears before seeking legal action. As part of that support, we also offer customers a range of options to make arrangements to pay any outstanding arrears.
"We would urge anyone who is struggling to pay their rent to contact us on 0800 218 2000."
For a full background to the Shelter report see previous Salford Star article: Salford Second Highest Level of Homelessness in the North West – click here