A studying mother threatens to end up on the street with two young children

“I got the lease notice two weeks ago,” Jasenka says. The fact that she has no prospect of residing before the end of January when her lease expires gives her sleepless nights. “I’ve been registered for nearly 11 years and reply to homes on a daily basis. Then I end up in my 30’s or 40’s,” Jasinka sighs. “I respond to two-room apartments in and out of Amsterdam. But it’s not yet time.”

homeless
Homelessness threatens Jacienca and her children. It seems history is repeating itself. Over two years ago we reached out to Jacienca at Pointer, then still De Monitor. Her young house contract in Amsterdam-Zuidwest is nearing completion, Linkedin reports. Does anyone know her home? A social work student at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences has reached her wit. The housing association cannot do anything. It does not receive a statement of urgency issued by the municipality in an emergency to prioritize social housing.

Since she was eleven years old, Jacienca no longer lives with her mother. She no longer had contact with the children’s father. Jacinka does not have a drinking or drug problem, nor does she have a debt problem. But she also doesn’t have a big bag of money to arrange a house, or friends or family who can do anything for her. “I might be able to spend the night somewhere, but moving in with someone who has two kids is just not possible,” she explains.

A single mother is completely stuck with her young children in her 33 square meter youth studio. Because private rents are far from her budget, she has to rely on social housing with a monthly rent of around 750 euros. But due to the acute shortage of such rental houses – in Amsterdam the waiting time can sometimes rise to 16 years – they are unable to find a suitable one. Also in Almere or West Friesland where it is registered, she has to wait years before her turn.

The hostel, which provided rooms in its younger years, is raising her concerns more and more now that the lease is due to expire at the end of January. “I don’t sleep because of it,” Jacinka says. “My biggest fear is that my children will soon be moved from me, because I cannot give them a safe environment.”

When we put Jacienca’s story online in 2020, and confronted the housing association with homelessness threatening her and her two young children, the spokesperson said, “We’ve never put mothers with children on the street.” Remarkably, too, something now appears to be possible. Rochdale, unwilling to respond in front of the camera, extends the lease for 3 months and then 2 years later.

tug of war
Jasenka is overjoyed but realizes that she has to find another home quickly anyway. Rochdale says it would reach out to the House of Representatives member of Housing, Laurens Ivens (SP) at the time, to request that an urgent order be issued. But he quickly rejected the proposal, saying, “This is not legally possible.” Rochdale should only give one of the so-called “5 percent housing” they keep in reserve for horrific situations.

That’s not how it works, Rochdale says. “The 5 per cent is not meant to accommodate people who fall between two chairs of the municipality’s emergency conditions. That number is too big.” According to the Housing Association, it is also not a sustainable solution to the problem.

The tug of war continues between Rochdale and the city of Amsterdam, while Jacienca is left empty-handed. She hires a lawyer who helps her free of charge in the legal battle she enters for an emergency declaration. In emergency situations, the municipality can give priority to social housing. Within six months to a year you will have a social rental home at your disposal. But the requirements are stringent: the municipality is not keen on issuing such a statement.

Jaciënca, who has made urgent applications several times to no avail, is appealing against the refusal with her lawyer. The judge ruled that the Amsterdam municipality must reconsider the application procedure. Because with the last application, there was only a short intake and Jacienca’s situation with her children was not properly determined. But even after the most comprehensive assimilation, the municipality announced in August that it would abide by its decision: Jasenka’s status does not give cause for urgency. The municipality believes it is responsible for the same situation. So she has to solve it herself.

The municipality receives many requests to declare an emergency. “Only in extremely exceptional cases can this be complied with,” the Amsterdam municipality said in the ruling. “The critical factor in assessing any request for a declaration of emergency is whether there is a residential emergency.” The fact that Jasenka is trying with all her might to avoid becoming homeless with her children is not a valid argument.

housing crisis
“The housing crisis is a reception crisis, single parents with children are the most vulnerable group in the housing market,” says attorney Janet Crossman, who helps Jasenka. “Rental companies against squatting don’t want families, and often there is no place in the shelter. I see single mothers living in kitchens with others in the house, and that is far from ideal.”

If she is already on the street with her children, she can still knock on the door of the emergency shelter that Amsterdam provides for families. “But there’s often nowhere there, either,” Cruzman says. From a legal point of view, municipalities have a great deal of freedom to formulate their own policy when issuing an emergency. This is because there is no “right in a house”. But this differs when it comes to childcare, Cruzman explains: “With regard to children, the legal rule is clear: Children have the right to childcare without being separated from their parents.”

Meanwhile, Jasenka is still putting her hands in her hair. “I just want to avoid being in emergency shelters in the future,” Jacinka says. The fear that she will not be able to provide a permanent home for her children, as she herself suffered in her younger years, gnaws at her greatly. “I am so afraid of losing my children.”

Phone call
Pointer calls Rochdale again. We ask the housing association if Jasenka will actually be on the street with her children. And again, the speaker suddenly invokes something from the top: “We are offering a six-month contract extension.”

In addition, there will also be a more structural solution for people who have to leave their youth homes. From mid-January, the housing allocation system will be reformed and hostel tenants in Amsterdam and the surrounding area will be given extra time to register so they don’t threaten to end up on the street like Jaciënca when their lease expires. According to Rochdale, that’s an additional 10 years from enrollment time. For Jacienca, an extension of the contract would traverse that transitional period.

Khasenka is very satisfied with the news. “I’m really happy,” she says, “and now hopefully it’s all right.” But she, too, is still critical. “It’s a pity that it came to this: I have to fight a legal battle and things only move when the media gets involved.”

The Amsterdam municipality has stated in writing that it will not discuss individual cases. The municipality says that due to the housing shortage, it is forced to allocate an urgent case only to the most inconvenient matters. She says she does not put families with children on the street. The municipality first assesses whether the household can enter into its own network. If not, they can go to an emergency shelter for families. The municipality also helps people find a home outside Amsterdam, where people with housing problems can sometimes qualify for a house to be drawn.

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