Commitment 7 of the Homes for Cathy commitments is to ‘ensure that properties offered to homeless people should be ready to move into’. According to Crisis’ ‘Everybody In’ plan to end homelessness, social housing properties offered without furniture and white goods, carpets and wall coverings deter people on low incomes from taking them up. This issue was consistently raised during the consultation process to develop the plan, as well as being highlighted by staff running homelessness services. Without the means to make social housing properties ready to move into, people on low incomes can often be pushed towards private rented sector properties; these might be equipped with furniture and white goods, but they offer less security and higher rents.
Using local networks to source furniture and white goods
Commitment 7 is about encouraging housing associations to use their local networks to identify sources of cheap or free furniture or helping tenants to access affordable financing so they can make their own purchases. Homes for Cathy member Flagship Group, which manages and maintains over 28,000 homes in the eastern region, rose to the challenge on both fronts. The housing association recently partnered with the British Heart Foundation (BHF) to create a trial ‘furniture scheme’ to provide vouchers for customers in need of necessary household items.
The idea for the scheme came from Flagship’s housing officers recognising that some families could benefit from having a home that was ready to move into, helping them reduce any initial expenditure.
The trial lasted six weeks and in this time 13 housing officers provided 22 vouchers to customers in need. The vouchers were redeemable at local BHF stores, giving customers the opportunity to choose their own furniture. The most requested items were white goods. The scheme provided £3,599 worth of necessary household items, over the six-week period.
One of the customers to benefit from the scheme was Miss Mongan, who was recently rehomed by Flagship Homes after being in refuge. As a single parent of two young children and in receipt of Universal Credit, she found it difficult to pay rent and save for a much-needed washing machine. Miss Mongan confided in her housing officer Paula, as she didn’t feel like she could do her job as a mother, having to hand wash her children’s clothes and bedding.
Helping tenants avoid slipping into rent arrears
Paula said, “I didn’t want her to slip into arrears and I knew she needed help as soon as possible. I wanted to see if there was anything we could do and that’s when I contacted our Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Manager. Miss Mongan was so thrilled when I gave her the good news and it was great to help someone in a difficult situation. I think this trial is great.”
Miss Mongan said, “It was a God send. I cannot thank Paula enough, she’s been fantastic throughout the process and has supported me since day one. Thanks to Flagship too, the washing machine has helped me out of big hole.”
Callum James, Flagship Group’s CSR manager commented, “It is great to work with the BHF and see so many benefits, particularly to our new customers who have recently been homeless. The trial was very successful in ensuring that our homes are ready to move in to, we’re exploring how we may be able to embed and sustain initiatives such as this longer term to make a real difference to our customers.”
For more information about the scheme, contact Flagship Communication Team on firstname.lastname@example.org.