Abuse victim flees city after claiming council 'washed its hands of her'
- Credit: Archant
A heavily pregnant woman who came to Norwich in the hope of escaping her abuser and starting a new life has criticised the council for "washing its hands of her".
The woman, who we are calling Ms X to protect her identity, is in her 20s, and travelled to another city after waiting more than two months for Norwich City Council to assess her homelessness application.
The council was approached for a response but was unable to comment due to safeguarding concerns.
A spokesperson did however say the council takes domestic abuse very seriously, and "knows how incredibly difficult it is for people experiencing these situations".
They also said the offer of safe temporary accommodation remains open while Ms X's homelessness application is processed.
Upon getting off the train and arriving in a new city, Ms X went straight to its civic centre. She said she was given emergency accommodation to stay in.
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From Monday, she'll be placed in a refuge with her young child, and has been told she will be permanently housed in the city "as soon as possible" thereafter.
"I can't believe how quick it's been handled", she said. "It took two hours for them to get me in safe accommodation and I've already been told I'm priority need and will be housed urgently.
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"After spending nearly three months in Norwich, being given what I thought were totally inappropriate accommodation options and told at the end of it all they may not even have a legal duty to house me, this is a huge relief.
"In Norwich, the council said because I'd already been tracked down by my abuser and serious threats had been made towards me, they didn't feel comfortable housing me.
"So even if I'd accepted their emergency accommodation option I could never have been housed here. I feel the council washed its hands of me."
Ms X had been staying at a family member's house, but this was untenable.
She feared if she stayed in one of the council's emergency accommodation options she'd just be "postponing the inevitable" — which was being sent back to square one and having to flee somewhere else if the council ultimately refused her application.
"I couldn't wait any longer", she said. "I'm heavily pregnant and need to be housed now. I need to get things ready for my baby. It could arrive any day now.
"I was getting sick with the anxiety. It was ridiculous."
Norwich City Council's housing policy says you can receive a permanent home if:
- you are eligible for assistance
- you are homeless
- you are in priority need
- you are not intentionally homeless
- you have a local connection to the Norwich City Council area, or have lived here for six months
On its website, it says: "If, following our enquiries, we are satisfied that the above criteria is met, and a full housing duty is owed, you will be rehoused into the first available suitable council accommodation."
If there is no local connection, the council's policy is to explore where a person presenting as homeless does have a connection or can be safely housed, and will refer them to that authority.