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Council tells homeless woman she’s ‘fit enough to sleep rough’

A seaside council is under fire after a young woman with mental health problems was told that she would “manage being homeless”.

The extraordinary comments were made in a letter informing the woman – who has not been identified – that she did not qualify for ‘priority need’ status for a council home.

The letter came after she was told she was losing her emergency B&B accommodation.

Despite accepting that she suffers from depression, Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder, an officer from Torbay Council wrote: "You are a person that I am satisfied is able to cope and function reasonably well with ‘day to day’ living and this would I believe still be the case if you were to become homeless or to remain homeless.”

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The unknown council official says they are satisfied the claimant “does not have priority needs” under housing law.

They say they have decided she is “resilient enough” to manage being homeless even if that means sleeping rough “occasionally or in the longer term”.

The letter adds: “We are unfortunately, as a result of this decision, not able to continue to provide you with temporary accommodation.”

The letter, revealed by charity Humanity Torbay, accepts the woman like anyone else facing becoming homeless “will inevitably suffer harm.”

Conservative MP Kevin Foster has criticised the council

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The charity said in a statement: “We are horrified and shocked that somebody with severe depression and other medical facts is deemed fit to be able to sleep on the streets.”

A spokeswoman said the charity had arranged a temporary safe place for the woman to stay.

Torbay Council says the extracts of the letter shared on social media do not tell the full story and it tries as hard as it can within the law to help people who come forward as homeless.

A spokesperson said the person involved has the right to ask for a review of the decision and the council is still supporting them to find accommodation.

Posts featuring the letter on Facebook and Twitter have attracted criticism, including from Torbay Tory MP Kevin Foster.

He said the apparent decision was unacceptable and urged the woman to get in touch so he could challenge the council.

Humanity said the woman involved had asked for the case to be publicised and it was protecting her identity.

A Torbay Council spokesperson said: "What has not been shown is an explanation of who would be considered in priority need and why this person is not.

"The letter also includes a clear explanation on their right to request a review of this decision, and we encourage the person concerned to exercise this right if they feel the decision has been made incorrectly.

“When anyone comes to us stating they are homeless we try to help them as much as we can.

"There are parameters set by the Government with regard to the current homelessness legislation.

"These parameters include five criteria that we have to consider as part of a homelessness decision."

In November Torbay Council was criticised for threatening to remove a homeless couple’s tent from public land.

Last month it evicted the homelessness support charity Path from a temporary base in a council-owned building in Abbey Road, Torquay.

The council works with partners in the Torbay End Street Homeless Network, including Path.

It has adopted a policy of Housing First to house homeless people so they can get other support they might need.

Last year Torbay was given almost £300,000 in extra Government funding to tackle rough sleeping.

The council said it would fund projects including temporary accommodation for young people and an outreach worker for young adults.

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