Jose was referred to the Routes Home service in February 2017. He is 49, a Portuguese citizen, who arrived in the UK in 1992 and since then had travelled and lived in the UK, France, Norway and back in Portugal, working mostly in the hospitality sector.
He was first seen rough sleeping in London in 2001. When he was referred into Routes Home in February this year, staff talked to him to assess his situation. He told them he was living with chronic, untreated Hepatitis C, had a previous history of alcohol and drug misuse and has significant mental ill health. At the time of the assessment he was rough sleeping in Kensington and attending a day centre daily for food and a shower but not wanting to talk to staff about possible next steps around accommodation or other options.
At the assessment Jose made it clear that he wanted to stay in the UK and that was the only option he was willing to consider.
The first challenge for the Routes Home team was to build trust with him so they could find out more about his mental and physical health conditions, and his work history in order to support any claim to stay in the UK. They did this by meeting him regularly, taking things at a comfortable pace, getting to know more about him. It took about a month.
Jose then trusted the team enough to give his consent for a copy of his HMRC records to be shared with them. The HMRC records showed that Jose had not had a continuous five year period of employment. This meant he wasn’t fulfilling EU treaty rights, and so therefore had not acquired a right to permanent residence.
Jose was still keen to explore his welfare entitlement within the UK and so the Routes Home team supported him to apply for Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and undertake a Habitual Residency Test.
Jose failed the Habitual Residency Test in March this year. At this time his behaviour became increasingly more erratic. He was still sleeping rough at this time and so Routes Home referred him to a local Mental Health team to assess him and provide expert psychological guidance on how best to help him move on from his current situation. In April the Approved Mental Health Practitioner (AMHP) and the team agreed that the first step was moving him away from the streets into temporary accommodation while they looked at his options. The Routes Home team managed to book him into St Mungo’s short term assessment accommodation in west London.
Jose was then supported to seek advice and support from the welfare department of the Portuguese consulate. He and the consulate identified his local connection in Portugal and research from the consulate revealed that Jose’s mother had a small flat for him to return to. She was willing to let Jose use the flat but was clear that she wanted no direct contact between the two of them and the flat keys were to be collected from a neighbour.
The Routes Home team talked to Jose a lot at this time about managing his expectations about family relationships and ensuring that this offer of a flat was supported to work. On this basis Jose agreed to return back to Portugal.
When it came to the day of flying home in July, Jose and a Routes Home team member went with him to meet Portuguese social services staff at their office. Jose had agreed for all his mental and physical health reports to be shared with Portuguese social services to ensure he could access the right support.
He was enabled to register for unemployment benefit on return to Portugal, allowing him a modest income. Jose’s social worker used the medical notes provided through Routes Home to link Jose in with a GP to enable him to access specialist help for his Hepatitis C and mental health. Social services checked his flat was habitable and Routes Home supported him to move in.
A Routes Home team bought him a pay as you go mobile in Portugal, topped up with 10 Euros, so he could stay in touch with them and with his social worker. He now tells workers he is glad to be living in his apartment and has regular contact with his social worker. Some of his benefits have already come through, which he is pleased about and the Portuguese employment office has also started him on a new course that he is enjoying, plus his GP has referred him for specialist Hepatitis treatment.
Jose, whose English is limited, told his Routes Home worker: “ It’s difficult to live on the streets – everything, the worst can happen. I am grateful for your help.”