New social lettings agency to help those at risk of homelessness in Croydon

Homeless people in Croydon Pic: Jiang Yu

Croydon Council has launched a one-year pilot programme to help residents avoid homelessness.

The new initiative, Croydon Lettings, targets people who have either been homeless or are at risk of failing to maintain a long-term tenancy. By widening the use of council referrals into the private rented sector, it aims to further reduce the number of people who ended up with homelessness or in temporary accommodation.

Private landlords who want a guaranteed tenancy are expected as well. Croydon Lettings has now been established with around 20 tenants and 12 landlords, and tenants are offered training before matched with a landlord, according to the council.

The six-week training, provided by the council’s Gateway welfare service, includes skills on financial management, tips on how to keep their property in good condition and report issues to the landlord, and employability training.

Croydon Lettings also gives tenants a month’s rent and deposit in advance to reduce moving costs and helps them set up council tax and utility bill accounts.

Benefits for landlords include getting vetted tenants, a guaranteed tenancy, paying no charges to the council, and a reduced possibility to take legal action against tenants.

Councillor Alison Butler, deputy leader and cabinet member for homes and Gateway services, said: “Debt, mental health problems and learning difficulties can increase some people’s risk of homelessness.”

“To prevent this, the council has set up a social lettings agency – not to collect rent or referral fees, but to give both local residents the know-how and support to have longer, happier tenancies, and to give responsible landlords a more secure supply of rental income,” she added.

Landlord Tracey Collinson signed up to Croydon Lettings after her last tenant failed to pay 6 months’ rent. Her new tenant, Sophie Dance, a 23-year-old mother-of-two with special needs, has now settled down in Collinson’s two- bedroom flat in Selhurst.

Collinson said: “Croydon Lettings has been amazing from start to finish in terms of customer service, meeting us and making things easy for us. Everything is geared around trying to make it a good working relationship between us, the tenant and the council.”

Dance said: “It’s a really nice flat. I would have found it a bit difficult without my mum or the council to help me with the forms.”

Among other measures tackling homelessness in the borough, the Council has opened the Food Stop in partnership with the Family Center and other organisations to help households that struggle to make ends meet in October 2017, and now the scheme has been shortlisted for this year’s London Homelessness Awards, back by Mayor of London.

The initiative gives households £20 worth of fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, dairy and other food for £3.50 a week and offers employability training. So far, 43 households have avoided homelessness, and a total of £16,037 on food shopping has been saved. It has also helped 17 long-term unemployed residents into work and 13 into training.

ELL has recently reported that Croydon Council has been awarded a £500,000 Government grant to provide the most vulnerable rough sleepers with 10 one-bedroom flats and medical support before Christmas.

Vulnerable long-term rough sleepers, whose homelessness was caused by issues such as heavy debt, broken family, long periods with no stable home, high risk of abuse and serious mental and physical health problems, will receive accommodation on the sole condition that they can maintain their tenancy.

Each of them will get a key worker who will help them access a range of supporting services, including psychiatry, drug treatment and training on skills and employability.

A rough sleeper in Croydon, who wishes to remain anonymous, said: “No one wants to be homeless. Council’s scheme is good and provides necessary help for rough sleepers. But only 10 one-bedroom flats are not enough for the homeless people in the borough, and many of them, suffering alcohol or drug addiction or mental health issues, do not have the ability to work and therefore can not afford the rent and will fail to maintain the tenancy.”

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