Scheme for rough sleepers in to “borrow” addresses to be trialled in Lewisham

Homeless man walking through park
A homeless man walking through a park with some bags. Pic: Martin Vorel

A trial programme being launched in Lewisham to help the homeless access vital services by lending them an address has been endorsed by a national UK homeless charity. 

Proxy Address, a company which has been working with Lewisham Council over the past couple of months, is trialling a service whereby those experiencing homelessness can ‘borrow’ an address and use it to apply for things such as opening a bank account, applying for a job or a driving license, accessing benefits, receiving post, or registering with a GP.

Chris Hancock, Head of Best Practice at the UK homelessness charity Crisis, said: “’In the last few months we have seen how the need for a settled home has never been more important. Whilst a lot has been achieved in getting people indoors temporarily, we have still some way to go. 

Without a secure address there is little chance for someone to make and sustain the connections they need. If we are to give people the best opportunity to find a home, or a job, they need a reliable point of contact, and that is why Crisis are very happy to support ProxyAddress and work together in the future for the benefit of our members.”

The programme, developed by British architect Chris Hildrey, ‘duplicates’ an address of an existing but empty or unused home with the homeowners permission so that those who need it will have a consistent address which they can use to access support but not to live in. Any mail addressed to the person using the service can be redirected. 

Lewisham Council is to be one of the first in the country to take part. 

Chris Hildrey, founder of ProxyAddress, said: “Nobody should be left alone or without recourse to help in times of need. The action already taken to help rough sleepers during the Covid-19 pandemic is a silver lining to a tragic situation but there remains a systemic barrier to helping those facing all types of homelessness: instability. Until stable housing and wrap-around support is available for all we need to find innovative ways to help those trapped in precarious situations. Now, more than ever, we have a duty to provide a lifeline to those most in need.”

During Covid-19 homelessness rose, and the Greater London Authority found that between April and June there were 4,227 people sleeping rough in London. 

Damien Egan, Mayor of Lewisham said: “I’m really proud that Lewisham will be the first local authority to trial this new service which will make it much simpler for homeless people to access the services they need to get back on their feet. 

With the government having ended their ban on evictions, the pilot couldn’t be happening at a more important time and I’m pleased that Lewisham will be leading the way on tackling homelessness and inequality.” 

Those giving permission for their home to be used for this programme won’t be negatively affected as the properties credit score, value or postal deliveries will stay the same. 

Currently there are over a quarter of a million empty or unused houses in England. 

The programme is available between October 2020 to March 2021.

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