A HOUSING charity in Inverness is helping a penniless EU migrant to appeal against a decision to block his access to welfare benefits.
The Highland Homeless Trust believes unemployed Miroslaw Kalinowski (Mirok) has been unfairly treated because he has been living in the UK long enough to qualify for Universal Credit.
The 61-year-old homeless man was evicted from his home last year after his benefits were withdrawn when he failed a "right to reside" test.
He did not qualify because he is an unemployed immigrant who is unable to support himself.
The controversial decision comes on the back of a 2016 court ruling in which Britain won the right to refuse to pay welfare benefits to unemployed EU migrants who have been in Britain for less than five years.
However, Alex Gilchrist, general manager of Highland Homeless Trust in the city’s Church Street, said Mr Kalinowski had a good case to argue – as he has been living in the UK for more than five years.
She said: "We feel that he’s got a right. This is our second case of this happening. We are appealing it on his behalf. We are working in the background with him. He’s not just being left to get on with it."
It is understood Mr Kalinowski came to the UK about a decade ago for work on building sites.
However, his mental health went downhill and he had recurring problems with his feet rendering him unfit for labouring.
He was receiving welfare benefits but they were stopped last year when he was reassessed by the Department for Work and Pensions.
He lost his ‘right to reside’ status which meant the Highland Council housing team and other public departments were unable to offer support.
The only support Highland Council could offer was a free bus ticket home.
He declined and has chosen to stay in the UK to fight his case.
The Big Issue seller, who speaks little English, has been sleeping on the sofa of his former ex-partner, mum-of-two Alexandra MacLeod, who reluctantly took him in six months ago because he had "absolutely nowhere else to go".
Ms MacLeod thought the arrangement was for a few days. But half a year on, she was beginning to despair that she would be left to care for him.
She said: "He can’t stay here – I shout at him all the time and tell him off and I seem to be on top of him but I do not want him dead on the streets – I would like him to have his own place.
"I’m in a really difficult situation; if I kick him out when it’s winter there is a possibility that will happen.
"Nobody else has got the emotional connection and he’s got so many problems that are just not getting dealt with."
She is relieved that the Highland Homeless Trust has some hope.
She said: "It’s good that the Homeless Trust is actually going to do something. I just hope he gets re-housed and some mental health support soon."
Inverness and Nairn MP Drew Hendry said: "I am sorry to hear about Mr Kalinowski’s difficulties and his current situation. When a person loses a ‘right to reside’ status, the Highland Council housing team and other public departments are left with their hands tied.
"I am, therefore, very glad to read that Mr Kalinowski has the support of Highland Homeless Trust and that he is in contact with the Highland Council welfare team. They, along with Inverness Job Centre and the Cab team do incredible work to navigate people through the UK’s horrendous welfare regime."