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April 3, 2018

Refugee family left homeless because judged “resilient enough”

A couple and their two daughters, who fled the Syrian conflict in 2012, were evicted from their privately rented residence in Enfield two weeks ago, the Independent reports. They have been refused housing support because they were judged “resilient enough” to face homelessness.

Muhamed and Rouzeh Shouesh – trained as an engineer and a solicitor, respectively – have been struggling to find work and suffering from ill health. The family was informed last year that they would be evicted from their rented home in Edmonton after the landlord decided to stop letting the property. They tried to find an alternative but have been routinely turned away by landlords and letting agencies because they receive state benefits. The Shouesh family is now temporarily housed in a North London hotel that is charging them half price, but says it will soon run out of money. 

Enfield Council have washed their hands of the case by arguing that the family did not sufficiently demonstrate their heightened vulnerability, judging that the harm that might result from homelessness would be manageable – or rather, not more unmanageable for them than for anyone else. In the Council’s own words, the Shouesh family is “resilient enough”:

Looking at all the facts I believe you and your husband are resilient enough to manage a reasonable level of functionality and I am not satisfied that your ability to manage being homeless, even if that homelessness were to result in you having to sleep rough occasionally or in the longer term, would deteriorate to a level where the harm you are likely to experience would be outside the range of vulnerability that an ordinary person would experience if they were to be in the same situation as you. 

The local authority thus judged that it could not “fairly” bump the Shouesh family to the top of the housing waitlist. 

Michael McGowan, a local charity worker who has been supporting the family, told the Independent he had approached the council when the family was first issued the eviction notice. He was told they would be housed if they were left homeless. “But when it came to it they were told ‘you are not priority need, you can go and sleep on the streets’.”

This story exemplifies not only the dire support provided to refugees in the UK, but also, and more broadly, the sorry state of housing support provision for precarious families.