Bleeding more cash out of homeless people

We go back to Marlin Apartments in Stratford, where homeless families live 4 and 5 to a single room – around which they are pursued by militias of rats, mice, bedbugs, cockroaches, tiny flies and other pests that I didn’t care to view closely at the time. There are pictures and stories here if you can stand it.

Being eaten by bedbugs was plenty to be getting on with, but now, there is more. It turns out that the above vermin aren’t the only ones in pursuit of Marlin residents. Energy and water companies are after them, too – for money that the residents neither owe, nor can pay. No surprises there, of course. You don’t get much time off from your life as prey when you are poor. Your whole day is lousy with bloodsuckers, muggers and vultures who can’t wait to chew you out. You get down to bone, but your tormentors will still charge in to gnaw it.

Which is not to say that they don’t form a type of queue. In any list of voracious wankers, water and energy companies invariably make their way to the top. In a stampede for your twitching carcass, they will bullock past the rest in the race for your soft parts. Which they’ll get.

So it is at Marlin Apartments. Recently, while thumbing through mail that the rats had yet to fully consume, residents found water and energy demands for several hundred pounds. In some cases, these demands were for more than £500:

Image of water costs bill showing a demand for £531.82

At the same time, Marlin residents received letters from Newham council which said that they had to set up their own accounts with energy companies, and pay the usual exorbitant power bills directly to those companies.

image from letter about changed conditions for charging for energy bills at Marlin Apartments

As I understand it (I don’t entirely), up until September, bills were included in residents’ rent – one bill for the lot, residents say. I suppose that makes sense given that Marlin Apartments were once serviced apartments for city-visitor management types, who probably paid an all-inclusive bill for a stay.

Now that the apartments are used as temporary accommodation for homeless people, things have changed – to bring Marlin residents in line with “arrangements that are made with all residents of temporary accommodation,” according to the above letter from the council. I say, “as I understand it,” because the council has not responded to my requests for clarification on the new and old charging “systems.” Also, the text in the council’s letter is about as clear as catflop. I tried hard, but there are sentences that are taking a while to stick:

“As a result of the rising energy costs, it has been agreed with Marlin apartments that the cost of water heating via the gas supply to the building will be made by them directly to you.”

I think that means, “as energy costs go up, homeless tenants will be hit for the lot.”

So, that’s great for residents. As we all found out last year – and a long time before in many cases – knowing that your heating bills will increase in winter, and as dangerous damp and mould set in, is not especially hilarious.

National and local government like to argue that billing homeless people like the rest of us (ie, violently) is character-building and the path out of dependence. This argument tends to circumnavigate the fact that problems with meeting bills are generally less about a lack of character than about a lack of money, but we must grow where we can, I guess.

I suppose that there is a bit of bright side, in that worrying about impossible energy bills could be a refreshing change from worrying about being eaten alive by bedbugs. Then again, maybe being slowly gassed by anti-bedbug pesticides is a better way to go. As I say, you look for positives where you can. Every aspect of council homelessness provision is so terminally stuffed that I now tend to rate problems by degree and length of torture. When looking for answers to problems, you really do find yourself asking questions like – is sitting in a damp room and choking on mould particles over several winters better or worse for body and soul than being munched on by bedbugs and mice? What should you deal with first?

People living in temp housing get both, of course, Such are the times. If you are homeless in 2023, housing success is not about finding somewhere comfortable, or safe, or clean, or even habitable. It’s about finding a place that you and your kids might survive.

Anyway. I imagine that some people who read this won’t give a toss, logic being that we’re all stuck paying huge water and energy bills, so why should homeless people miss out. Also, heaps of people get random batshit demands for hundreds of extra pounds from energy and water companies, so, I can see some people thinking – welcome to the club. I got a random demand for £2,000 from Southern Electric once. Amusingly, they ended up paying me £600 after I started blogging about it.

My point, though: when the squeeze is put on homeless people, you see again that there are no limits. End-stage capitalism hunts for money where there is none. It would be kinder, and certainly prettier, to throw homeless people to actual sharks.

132 thoughts on “Bleeding more cash out of homeless people

  1. Hi Trev and everyone, happy new year! I have a social broadband tariff, £15 a month from BT, and I get an allowance of free landline calls too. I don’t have a TV, or watch live TV or record or download it, or use iPlayer, so don’t need a TV licence, which is how I afford it…I can watch itv channel 4 and 5 legally on catch up later, and still afford my beloved Audible subscription!
    Yes, it’s staff shortages, I thought they were concentrating their efforts on the job ready claimants though, I’m not complaining they’re leaving me alone for a bit!
    Trev it beggars belief that you go to sign on limping with a stick and they still send you on their back to work programmes and shit, and don’t just say, get signed off!!

  2. They’ve been cracking down on welfare for years though, and how is any of this helpful to ppl like me: I work, 55% of my pitiful wage is taken by UC,so any rise in minimum wage is eaten too, I pay council tax, ATM nearly everything I get to keep from UC goes straight back out on travel, this will change soon when I get my bus pass, and I’d be honestly better off not working. When the standard allowance goes up in April to 395 odd, that’s more than the 372 I earn in a month and I wouldn’t be paying council tax!! I

    • I can relate to this I recently was shorlisted for a Job I applied for and I realised that I would be worse off by £120 a month than just continuing as I am, so I chose the latter.

      This wasn’t a Jobcentre referral so it’s Impossible for them to track. It’s happened many times before.

      • It’s highly unlikely that even a job referred by the Jobcentre would be followed up on, unless the advisor was a nasty piece of work. There simply isn’t sufficient staff to do anything but for peace of mind in those circumstances you could always ask the prospective employer not to share your personal information, quoting your protection under GPDR. The employer may well anyway operate that way to protect themselves from any potential legal problems. I think in any case you have to specifically agree to allow the sharing of your personal data.

        • Thanks for that Paddy. I hope you’re keeping well, and not letting the b******s grind you down. All the best. from Tony

  3. DWP’s IT System called ATOS a French company running the Civil Service’s IT. The ATOS Scandal, the DWP Scandal, Universal Credit Scandal. Back to the Post Office with Horizon IT.

  4. Well off topic again but I just had my video call with my work coach, after a month, and he’s booked the next one for end of next month, so their staffing issues always seem ongoing!! I’m certainly not complaining

  5. The DWP are now hetting busy in the fraud department, not only with AI but with with new so called DWP powers to force entry & search claiments places if they think fraud has taken place. The DWP will have to put the contract out to tender & G4S will win the contract. Now the political policy has turned criminal. Forcing entry aka breaking an entry means criminal damage aswell as harrasment & intimidation which DWP & G4S is the simple facts of failure. Now that makes it a criminal matter & not a political matter. The DWP don’t want the police involed because it is in house at the DWP Police Department.

    A question for AI:
    Why is AI technogoly rubbish & keeps going wrong?
    I can’t compute – computer says no – malfunction.

    It’s good to see Human Rights working !!!

  6. So there are 3 million people gone on to sickness benefits since Covid. How is that possible of a Tory Think Tank myth. For one thing incapacity benefits for new claims does not exsist anymore & has turn into New Style ESA. Does no one have a medical anymore to get on to sickness benefits !! Passing a medical seems so easy now with a mental health condition, where as before it was the most difficult condition to have to pass a medical. All you need is a letter from your GP & you pass the medical. It seems we are going backwards from the Tory Flag Ship Welfare Reform & getting everyone on Universal Credit. New Style Income Support, New Style ESA & so on. 4th Stage Cancer had problems passing a medical. Since medicals are done over the phone or via video link is that the loop hole of fraud or just a Tory Think Tank myth that eveyone is on the sick !!

  7. Has anyone seen the latest? There’s been reports today that as far back as 2022 the DWP were trialling this checking of claimants bank accounts without saying anything and apparently it found lots of fraud, both in too high savings and also abroad fraud. Aren’t there rules about transparency to be followed here? This chimes with something I read during the pandemic, although the Govt said they would NOT track ppl who downloaded the app to see if they were obeying the stay at home rules etc, after the vaccination programme started they did to see if ppl were behaving any differently! I refused on principle to download that app!

  8. National Service Universal Credit Roll Out.

    From today WorkWell with the help of your work coach will offer jobs in the British Army, if you do not take the job you will be sanctioned. 18 to 65’s only. Creating zero unemployment.

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