Tag Archives: homelessness prevention

Making a property feel like a home for new tenants

Homes for Cathy Commitment 7 is to ‘ensure that properties offered to homeless people should be ready to move into’, a pledge that recognises that a home is not just bricks and mortar, but a place of comfort and safety where people who have experienced homelessness can thrive.  Homes for Cathy spoke to Sanctuary Operations Manager, Ben Tranter and Neighbourhood Partnership Manager, Melanie King, to find out about the housing association’s innovative ‘Welcome Home’ project, which is part of its wider ‘customer-first’ approach. The project provides new tenants with an Argos voucher up to the value of £500, ensuring customers start a tenancy with the household essentials they need to make a property feel like home. 

How did the Welcome Home scheme come about?

MK: I come from a housing background and was a housing officer for 17 years.  We’ve all experienced signing up a new customer and standing with them in an empty property and all they have is a carrier bag full of possessions.  For me and my colleague who developed the scheme, it was something very close to our hearts, as we had seen people come to us in that situation, who had previously been homeless or fled domestic violence with nothing. 

In setting up the scheme, we wanted to be able to provide new customers moving into a Sanctuary property with the household items they need in the first week of their tenancy.  We ran an initial pilot with Argos, whereby we offered people a pack of furniture and other items we thought they would need to start their tenancy, such as bedding, towels, a microwave, kettle, toaster, crockery and cutlery, a microwave cooking set, rubbish bin and a bucket and mop.  However, we found there were always items that weren’t in stock or had to be collected in store, which proved difficult for people without a car.

We learned from that initial pilot and decided that we should give new customers the choice of what they want to buy and what they feel is important for them to be able to move into their property.  We now provide an Argos voucher on the day a new customer signs up and it’s up to them how they spend it. Currently, we offer £400 of vouchers for a single person, £450 for a couple and £500 for a family.

BT: It’s about the principle of trusting customers to know what it is they need, rather than us telling them what they need.  It also gives us flexibility in that we can use the voucher scheme in combination with other services that are already out there, such as charities and other support mechanisms.  Colleagues also have access to our own interactive map of the external support services across our localities, which they can signpost customers to.

How are new tenants referred to the scheme?

BT: It starts at the point of the tenancy offer, when our lettings officers will have an initial conversation with customers to find out more about the situation they have come from and what they are bringing with them in terms of furniture and household items.  If a lettings officer has concerns that a new customer may be moving in with nothing and has no facility to get anything, they will then refer to the relevant housing officer.  During the property viewing, the housing officer will have a secondary conversation to understand what the customer will be moving in with and will decide whether they need the support of the voucher scheme.  It’s very much a feeling and a conversation.

MK: It’s very flexible – ultimately, we’re giving our housing officers another tool in their toolkit to support new customers to succeed in their tenancy.

How is the scheme funded?

BT: Our procurement colleagues and social value development officer have worked hard to develop relationships with suppliers to ensure we can build social value into contracts, and we were fortunate that one of our big supply chain partners agreed to wholly fund the scheme.  We have secured a pot of funding for the initial scheme but we’re hopeful that if we can demonstrate that there is an ongoing need and that the scheme is making a difference, we’ll be able to convince our supplier to continue to support it.

MK: We know that many of our suppliers have their own charitable objectives but are not always able to support a charity themselves, as they’re not operating in the right arena.  Partnering with an organisation like Sanctuary – where we have access to different types of services and skills – means they can find projects that have a good fit with their organisation and allow them to fulfil their charitable aims.  We’re also fortunate in that Sanctuary is keen to support innovation and encourages colleagues to use their initiative to develop projects such as this. 

What are the benefits of the scheme in terms of tenancy sustainment?

MK: Customers coming from a homelessness situation or sofa surfing can have a lot of other issues going on, and sometimes can sign up for a property and not move in.  With the Welcome Home scheme, we can offer people a home rather than a house; not only does it mean there’s one less thing for new customers to worry about, but it also helps reduce the likelihood of abandonments and the costs and issues associated with void properties. 

More importantly, the scheme helps us to make a connection and build a positive relationship with customers, which makes it far easier for them to approach us if they have a problem in the future, for example with their rent.

BT: It’s about the customer having confidence and trust in us.  As a landlord, we’re often seen as an authority figure, particularly by customers who have been street homeless; sometimes this can scare them, and they can pull away.  The scheme breaks down those barriers and helps them understand that we’re here to support them. This is more vital than ever as, sadly, we are seeing more and more people in need of support due to the impact of the cost-of-living crisis.

Sanctuary owns and manages more than 116,000 homes, making it one of the largest housing associations in the country. A not-for-profit housing association, its mission is to build affordable homes and sustainable communities where people choose to live.

Abri partnership preventing homelessness for people in mental ill health recovery

Homes for Cathy member Abri – a 35,000 home housing association operating in the south of England – has partnered with Southern Health Foundation Trust (SHFT) and homelessness charity The Society of St James (SSJ) to provide the ‘Step Out Pathway’, housing and support for people discharged from acute mental health services.

With one in four people in the UK experiencing mental health problems each year, mental health services are becoming increasingly stretched. Part of this is a lack of move-on accommodation support for people in mental ill health recovery, which is becoming a growing crisis for the NHS. Across Hampshire, this is resulting in substantial housing need as well as cost pressures for the NHS.

SHFT reported that limited spaces were being blocked by people who could return to the community if there was supply of appropriate accommodation. Around 60 people (many from Southampton) were, as a result, being housed in temporary accommodation in cities such as Manchester, Bradford and Liverpool at an average cost of £600 per day.

In partnership with SHFT, Abri provides access to a portfolio of 15 properties to help alleviate the issue. Situated on the outskirts of central Southampton, the Mansbridge location encourages independence and helps people in recovery to be close to community facilities, while distancing from other negative influences. These properties are granted through a lease agreement to The Society of St James (SSJ), a Southampton-based homelessness charity, who take on full housing management and landlord responsibilities. Abri has a good working relationship with SSJ, established over many years of working together on other initiatives.

The Keep Well Collaborative was instrumental in the conceptualisation, design and development of this ‘Step out’ pathway, facilitating the approach as part of their wider commission by the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Integrated Care System to address health inequalities through a focus on the home.

Abri now has eight leases in place and the partnership is looking to explore more opportunities. It has been a challenging process, with people moving from acute inpatient units with long-term mental health issues, but the partnership is proud there have been no hospital re-admissions and there are signs of the residents establishing themselves within the local community.

The longer-term leases (seven years) also provide time and space for people to think differently. Removing the timeline for people moving out of the properties reduces pressure and enables them to focus on making the changes they need to make in their lives.

Avril Ansell, Abri’s Partnership Living Manager, said, “It’s been such a positive piece of partnership working and is such a clear fulfilment of our strategic aim around community, as we’re building on our relationships with both the NHS and also a specialist housing management provider to help people to move on with their lives in a really clear way. I know that my team has really valued seeing the smiles on people’s faces when they’ve seen the properties that they are about to move into, knowing that they are hopefully turning another significant corner to improved health and wellbeing.

“Having a place to call home, establishing roots and finding opportunities for personal development can make a significant difference to people’s lives. We’re excited to continue working in partnership to provide these homes for years to come.”

Jon Pritchard, Associate Director of Housing & Community Inclusion at Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust added, “This collaboration between Abri, Society of Saint James, and Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust provides an excellent discharge solution for people who, traditionally, haven’t had many/any accommodation options at the point of discharge.  With the support of our partners, Abri and SSJ, we are discharging people from our inpatient care much sooner than we would be able to do otherwise. 

“Using a consistent person-centred approach across all of our organisations we can ensure that the property is right for the individual (close to support/family networks/transport links, and meets their accessibility requirements etc).

“The individuals receive intensive, time-limited support from the Southern Health Community Rehabilitation Team when they move in to their new home, which transfers to the Community Mental Health Team over time.  This structured support really helps to make the discharge sustainable.

“Our partnership brings the constituent strengths of each organisation together, delivering the greatest impact for our service users.  We very much look forward to continuing to grow this innovative approach.”

Unlocking a more stable future for rough sleepers in your area

Just over a year since the government announced the first tranche of Rough Sleeper Accommodation Programme (RSAP) funding allocations, over 5,700 move-on homes for rough sleepers have been delivered by councils and their partners across England. 

In that time, many Homes for Cathy member organisations have risen to RSAP challenge, working closely with their local authorities to co-produce move-on schemes and create the long-term capital assets that will contribute to local plans to end rough sleeping.  For many, it’s been a steep learning curve, complicated by the pandemic, a booming property market and rocketing building costs.

Fulfilling housing associations’ social purpose

However, it’s shown that where there’s a will, there’s a way; housing associations committed to their social purpose are playing a valuable part in solving the homelessness crisis.  What’s more, it’s clear that those organisations who already have strong relationship with local authorities – as set out in the Homes for Cathy commitments – have been able to act at speed to respond to local need.

With the recent announcement of RSAP bidding cycle five, now could be the last opportunity until 2025 for providers to deliver long-term move-on homes; the majority of the capital funding remaining is available for the financial year 2022/23, with only a small amount available in 2023/24.  Revenue funding – to provide the support element that is crucial to helping former rough sleepers re-build their lives – is also available for the financial years 2022/23, 2023/24 and 2024/25.  Councils and their partners have until 13 April 2022 to submit their co-produced proposals and work must start on site by 31 March 2023, with completion required by the end of March 2024.

Tips for co-producing a move-on scheme

So, what do bidders need to take into account when considering co-producing a move-on scheme?  Here are our tips:

  • Focus on additional provision – DLUHC’s objective is to grow capacity in the sector, therefore no more than approximately 10 per cent of housing units will come from existing social housing stock currently in use or where historic grant has been invested.
  • Be creative – any route that can bring about a solution will be considered, from converting shops and commercial spaces to modern methods of construction (MMC) on brownfield sites.
  • Flexibility is welcome – dispersed, self-contained accommodation can offer the best outcomes but it’s recognised that, in high value property areas in particular, acquiring or building that type of property may not be viable, so shared accommodation is an option. 
  • Sustainability is key – for example, new build properties must have a minimum life expectancy of 60 years, ‘off the shelf’ dwellings that are acquired must a life expectancy of 30 years and longer leases will be prioritised.
  • Social investment is an option – for providers who would have difficulty accessing funding, social investment funds can offer a solution to purchasing properties at speed.
  • Help is on hand – the bidding process is just the start of an on-going relationship with Homes England; the team is available throughout the delivery period to help iron out any issues that providers may encounter along the way.

For more information, the full RSAP guidance is available here.

Vicki McDonald, Homes for Cathy Communications & Marketing Lead

We’re often told by housing associations that they deliver what we do already. Here’s why they don’t and how we bring value to their offer

Rebecca White, CEO and founder of Your Own Place, explains how partnering with an external tenancy training provider can amplify a housing association’s existing support offer to prevent homelessness

Your Own Place turned eight in October.  Both a huge milestone and a source of great pride.  What is often unseen beneath the veneer of glossy social media, is the knock backs, the failures, the disappointments and frustrations – especially when I’m told ‘we do that already’. 

We have grown modestly, safely and sustainably, partly out of choice and partly because what we do is hard, different, bespoke, time-consuming and we’ve an unwavering commitment to doing it right and very well.  Continuing in this modest vein is almost comfortable right up until the point when I ponder the phenomenal difference we make beyond our great outcomes and numbers.  More people deserve to benefit from it!

Like many, Covid19 threw a curveball opportunity that has neither fundamentally changed us nor endangered us.  This is because our mission and vision were always clear – to prevent homelessness. The team is as strong as they have ever been, their ideas are getting away from me (in a good way) and our digital transformation (and I mean every letter of that second word) was all their work.

Amplifying existing housing association support

Our current brilliant housing association customers recognise the strength of their own offer alongside how it can be boosted by partnering with us. When we start a partnership we equip housing teams with the knowledge about our service and how it’s different – and also complementary.  Together we are able to further develop the skills, knowledge and confidence of your tenants alongside your offer.  With our delivery of tenancy sustainment workshops (TILS+ and DigiTILS+) we provide the space for tenants to reflect on what they have heard from their housing support officer or income officer.  Together, trainees in a group find their voice with us as an independent organisation.  They find themselves able to share their knowledge of the support they have received as well as their new skills. In so doing, the support your teams are providing already is amplified. Hearing from peer tenants about what support they have accessed and found useful as well as hearing the same content from a different voice in a different way boosts what you are doing already. This reinforces the messages that housing associations are already investing so much in.

Whether it’s income teams, benefits or money advice or even getting to the point of eviction, the support we see many housing associations offer often faces huge challenges of reaching people in difficult situations and often already in crisis. Ours is a prevention offer that can both prevent a crisis happening (freeing up your team’s time) or build the skills of the tenant to resolve the situation themselves (building resilience for the future and also freeing up staff time). These are not simply life skills, but skills for life.  They equip people to go further than simply resolving their money worries or tenancy responsibilities, but to consider enrolling at college, finding work, or simply leaving their room for the first time.

Partnership approach

We’re often told by housing associations that they deliver what we do already.  What we see are housing associations doing phenomenal work around advice and sustainment work that can be enhanced by a partnership. Here’s the value we can bring to that work:


  • Through facilitation rather than advice or 1-2-1 crisis support, we ensure the trainee residents not only gain the new knowledge, skills and confidence to sustain their tenancy, but develop the longer term skills of realising they have the skills needed to get help and find their own solutions.  All this means there is less pressure on your teams as trainees become more inter-dependent and resilient.


  • Like many housing associations, you’re as committed to tenancy support as we are.  We also know that our delivery style will be different to yours.  To take information on board and change behaviour the human brain has to hear things multiple times in multiple ways – by attending our workshops we reinforce your messages.


  • We know how hard it can be to get groups of residents together and yet we know how powerful the peer group can be.  As experts in their own lives, our group workshops offer the space to reflect on the support they may have had from you already, support each other and gain the confidence to act on your advice. This is our area of expertise and strengthened by being an independent organisation. It builds connections and inter-dependence and the confidence to engage with other group interventions (college or training courses and volunteering etc).


  • Our independence as an external organisation is a huge strength and enables us to hear the voice of the resident that is sometimes silent.  We can work with them and with you during our interventions to understand how they receive your service and include this in our impact reports for you.

Your Own Place exists to prevent homelessness by ensuring people have the skills to sustain a tenancy. For more information about the services it provides, contact rebecca@yourownplace.org.uk

Can do attitude helps Broadland rise to Next Steps challenge

In the third in our series of articles about the role of Homes for Cathy members in delivering the Government’s Next Steps Accommodation Programme, we spoke to Broadland Housing’s Executive Development Director Andrew Savage and Executive Director of Housing Catherine Little, to find out how they’re rising to the challenge to provide interim accommodation for homeless people in Norfolk.

What’s the homelessness picture in your local area?


Broadland provides more than 5,000 homes across Norfolk and north Suffolk, so we cover both urban and very rural areas.  As a city and major town in Norfolk, Norwich and King’s Lynn have always been very much at the sharp end of homelessness, with multiple pressing issues such as a large number of migrant homeless with no recourse to public funds.  However, since the pandemic hit, registered providers have realised that there is a homelessness issue right across the area now, not just in the larger settlements.  For example, we’ve seen increasing numbers of people rough sleeping in places like Great Yarmouth and towns in North Norfolk that aren’t normally associated with homelessness, such as Fakenham and North Walsham.  Consequently, there’s been a lot of pressure on local authorities to accommodate people at short notice, with no additional funds to do so. 

Tell us about the projects you are undertaking with NSAP funding…


We asked ourselves the question ‘where do we have critical mass?’ and the answer is Norwich, King’s Lynn and Great Yarmouth.  In Great Yarmouth, the local authority wanted to own their properties, as they are a stock holding authority.  So Broadland are providing development agency services to help the three new build developments the council are undertaking.  These when completed will provide circa 30, 50sqm one bedroomed self-contained apartments using modular construction.

In Norwich, we’re working with Norwich City Council to deliver three projects.  We’re buying 10 street flats to provide ex-offenders with a stable home and help them reintegrate into the community. This is using the city’s Right to Buy monies and Broadland capital.  We’re also purchasing an additional 10 flats, using Next Steps funding, on the open market which will be dedicated to Housing First tenants.  Finally, we’re building six one-bedroom modular flats in a new development intended for move-on accommodation.

In King’s Lynn, we have two projects underway using Next Steps funding in collaboration with the Borough Council of King’s Lynn and West Norfolk.  Again, we’re buying six flats on the open market as part of a Housing First project, and leasing ten one bedroom flats for move on.

Broadland Housing Group’s development director Andrew Savage

Did your NSAP bid include any revenue funding?


Yes, we have revenue funding to support our Housing First projects and also to support people in move-on accommodation.  It’s important that people who have experienced homelessness aren’t just given a home and expected to fend for themselves.  For the Housing First projects, we’ve commissioned support from specialist providers, who can provide the right expertise in this area.

What have been the key challenges around delivering on the Next Steps programme?


The main challenge has been that we already had our annual development programme in place, so we’re adding to a programme in a way that wasn’t planned.   It had to be a knee-jerk response because of the funding becoming available – it’s forced us to be reactive which isn’t always ideal in delivering new supply.  Despite this, we haven’t wanted to lower our ambitions on quality.  For example, we’ve done many modern methods of construction (MMC) projects in the past, so it’s not necessarily a new approach, but we’re using it for the right solution.  In terms of meeting the March deadline, there have been a few delays, particularly with the modular accommodation and the housing market supply ebbing and flowing through the various lockdowns however MHCLG and Housing England have been sensible where they can see we’re well advanced with plans.


MHCLG have been brilliant about what they want to achieve but, I agree, it’s not been particularly strategic.  I think we should be looking at a system change instead; unfortunately it feels like we’re a million miles away from that.  The idea of a ‘national asset’ is great, but moving people around is not true Housing First – it doesn’t allow people to put down roots. 

Catherine Little, Broadland’s executive director of housing

What learnings have you taken from the process?


I think in the future, it would be beneficial for the co-ordination to come from either Housing England or MHCLG, rather than both.  Looking ahead I personally feel, funding for years two and three needs to come out at the same time, so that we can plan accordingly.  It would be much better to deliver extra supply rather than partly buying from the existing market stock.  However, there’s always going to be a learning curve and ultimately this was a need in the sector that hadn’t been dealt with.  We now have an opportunity to help deliver what we can in the short term and hopefully people will see the merits in medium term programmes to deliver the ambition of long term national assets.


We’ve been able to build on existing relationships which has been great; fortunately there was already a good deal of trust between Broadland and our local authorities, which made us a natural partner.  We’ve worked more closely with other housing associations to make sure we’re co-ordinating, not competing in this area. The question now is ‘how do we continue to build on these positive relationships?’  From our point of view, it’s vital that we keep an open conversation going with both commissioners and strategic housing providers. 

It’s also vital not to underestimate the importance of the third sector, which has provided strong support across the whole of the county during the crisis.  We believe that if another provider can do something better, they should be the one doing it – no one agency needs to try to do everything.  The partnership approach has definitely broken down some of the barriers that may have existed in the past, which is wonderful.

What positives have you taken from the process?


We’re lucky to be working in an organisation with the leadership of a CEO (Michael Newey) who is passionate about the need to end homelessness and a Board who unanimously support what we’re trying to do.  Being a member of Homes for Cathy has certainly been instrumental in making that happen.


Being part of Homes for Cathy has also provided something for our development team to ‘sell’ to local authorities, allowing us to go in and talk to them about the need for more housing rather than temporary accommodation.  We’re able to say to local authorities ‘we’re here to support you’ and local councillors know that Broadland is fully committed.  Essentially it’s helped us cut through and sell our capability as a trusted partner to local authorities in the challenge to end homelessness.

One of the Homes for Cathy group’s founding members, Broadland Housing Association was formed in 1963 and built its first scheme, at Shipfield in Norwich, in 1967. Today it provides more than 5,000 quality homes across Norfolk and north Suffolk.

World Homeless Day 2020

World Homeless Day is a chance for our community and members to highlight the needs of homeless people.

We’ve partnered with South Yorkshire HA, Shared Health, One Housing, BCHA and Hightown HA across here and our social media channels today to help educate and celebrate the work being done by some of our members and partners.

South Yorkshire Housing Association

Mazrab came from Afghanistan in 2011 with his family as refugees. SYHA and his support worker Kay have helped the family settle in South Yorkshire.

Vic Stirling, Head of services for homeless services, answers some questions about the misconceptions around homelessness and where she would like extra funding to be spent.

Shared Health

Shared Health Foundation is an initiative of the Oglesby Charitable Trust,
which is seeking to tackle health inequalities across Greater Manchester. They shared the following from their call to action report.

The poorer the area, the greater the need and the lack quality healthcare available. Our families sometimes get placed in emergency accommodation that is out of borough and miles away from their families, communities, schools and GPs. They then can’t access the same resources as everyone else easily. 

The children in these families also don’t get the same rights as Looked After Children so don’t get any official extra help or support from schools. The help they do get is professionals going above and beyond.

Their situation from fleeing domestic violence affects their health and can set them back years as the ‘temporary accommodation’ can last up to 2 years.

Read more :
A Call to Action:
To safeguard homeless families during the Covid-19 pandemic
and in its aftermath

One Housing

Ahmed a customer at One Housing, tells us where he would like more government funding spent.


BCHA want to say a big THANK YOU to all their staff and volunteers that have gone above and beyond this year to help those that are homeless, particularly when lockdown happened. Below is some of the help they offered to take on.

A senior practitioner from BCHA Bournemouth and Christchurch domestic abuse service has also shared how their residents battle isolation everyday but this year has been particularly testing.

Read more here.

Hightown Housing Association

It’s nearly been a year since Hightown began its Housing First project, Malcolm and Liana tell us how they have been helped by the service.

Read more about Hightown’s Housing First journey here.