CYMRAEG

From Hostel to the Private Rented Sector
 
Guest blog written by Open Doors Tenant Champion Damien. 
 
As someone with experience of homelessness and now working within homelessness services, I have a lot to say on the matter. Family breakdown, alcohol/substance misuse, mental health, domestic abuse are some examples of how people can find themselves to be homeless. I also imagine the rollout of universal credit will have a massive impact on homelessness rates…only time will tell. However now, we are seeing more and more people becoming homeless due to the end of a PRS tenancy. When we try and support people experiencing homelessness in to accommodation, we’re often faced with a number of challenges. One of the biggest issues is probably how to avoid a ‘swinging door’ system where homeless people are being put in to accommodation by support services only to find that their tenancies end up failing and they’re back in the system again. So the question I pose is this;   
 
‘How do we support people that are homeless in to sustainable tenancies, especially in the private rented sector?’
 
Since the Housing Act (2014) local authorities are able to put homeless people in to private sector tenancies. In theory, this is great as it means that people are potentially moved on a lot quicker, but in reality there are lots of challenges with this. If you have been through the system and are waiting for accommodation then traditionally, you will be waiting for a council property or something through a housing association. The main reason for this is that the PRS is not seen as secure form of housing, especially if it contributed to why you became homeless in the first place. You do not want to go through the entire system and then find yourself in the same position in 6 months because your landlord raised the rent and you couldn’t afford the property anymore.
 
To encourage people in to the PRS, it’s important that we are proactive. If we are putting people in to the PRS, then let’s help them stay there! Let’s have a tenancy support worker providing intense support for 6-12 months. Helping with benefits, integration in to the area, building a relationship with the landlord and other tenants and so on. Instead of placing them in to a property in to the PRS and thinking our duty is done, let’s set them up to succeed and thrive within the tenancy building up their resilience, knowledge and emotional investment to the tenancy itself.
 
Another issue that we often forget about is that if someone has been living in a hostel for a long period of time then they have most likely established networks, friends and a life for themselves. When we move these people on, we are effectively cutting them off from their networks. So instead of moving them on and leaving those to their own devices, let’s continue to have them attend activities at the hostel where they can help staff facilitate workshops so they are not completely removed from that environment.
 
My advice for people being moved in to the PRS from hostel accommodation is this.
 
If you have managed to get to this position where you are ready to be housed in the PRS then keep doing all the good stuff that you’ve been doing to get there in the first place! Be aware of your relationship with the landlord and how you are with them, and also how they are with you! If they act in a way that you don’t think is fair – ask someone for advice!
 
Keep up with rent payments even if you think that your landlord isn’t acting correctly – get advice if you think you have been treated unfairly. Also if you start to struggle with rent payments, get help immediately!
 
One last thing, remember that when you are in a PRS tenancy you are responsible for your actions. Be very mindful of this as you do not want to risk your home and be in a vulnerable position again. 
 

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