‘Munificent seven’ take homelessness fight to the doorstep

Help starts early in the London borough of Kingston.

Kingston

The ‘munificent seven’ blaze a trail across a London borough taking homelessness help to the doorstep.

They’re the seven specialist Fresh Start intervention workers active in Kingston as part of a newly commissioned borough council service.

Fresh Start works with those in the borough identified as displaying known risk factors for homelessness, such as debt problems, substance or alcohol misuse, unemployment or family relationship breakdown.

Run by homeless charity SPEAR, Lisa Moodie who heads up the seven, said the programme is about supporting people before they hit crisis point.

“In Kingston, Fresh Start supports both families and individuals at risk of becoming homeless.

“Our intervention workers start with a holistic assessment of a client’s situation, looking at the root causes of their tenancy issues and identifying what support they need.

“Fresh Start offers more than signposting. Our intervention workers support clients to access these services by attending initial meetings with them and helping them to build those relationships.

“Key to our approach is resilience and independence.

“If we can help people to connect more with their local community and to build up their network of support, the next time they run into difficulty, they’ll know what to do.”

From April, The Homelessness Reduction Act introduces new duties on local housing authorities to prevent and relieve homelessness, including working with households to try and resolve their homelessness and assisting with securing accommodation.

To help prepare for these changes, Kingston, Sutton and Merton councils, in partnership with SPEAR, submitted a joint funding bid and were awarded £1million of Trailblazer funding from the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) to trial new solutions to prevent homelessness.

Councillor Cathy Roberts, portfolio holder for Housing at Kingston Council, said: “Fresh Start is funded using the money we received from central government.

“It is a trial to see if we can prevent people spiralling into crisis at which point it is extremely challenging and costly to house them because we don’t have a readily available supply of council housing – no local authority does.

The outcomes of our Fresh Start trial will help inform homelessness prevention programmes across the country.

“Never before have we taken such a rounded, holistic view of a person’s situation or worked with the individuals or families that might otherwise fall through the cracks because they have some level of need but not enough to receive an offer of formal support from the council.

“Connecting people with their community and helping them to address the underlying issues impacting their tenancy, is a much more effective, self-sufficient and sustainable approach to preventing homelessness.”

Pictured: (Left to right) Kingston’s Fresh Start intervention workers – Aaron Darby, Lexi Alafouzo Emily Rycroft, Matteo Tazzi, Lara Henderson, Lisa Moodie (team leader) and Dan Steward.

Homelessness Prevention Trailblazers

Kingston, Merton, Sutton councils submitted a joint bid. The coalition was successfully awarded £1,004,790. There were 28 successful bids out of 122 across England.

The Fresh Start programme

Fresh Start is an early intervention, homelessness prevention programme, which is outreach and community based.

The program has a holistic approach, assessing clients on every area of their lives that may potentially lead to them becoming homeless.

Staff are trained on a range of interventions, and their primary role after the assessment, is to ensure the appropriate services are sourced and referred to.

The Fresh Start Team support the client in accessing these services, to encourage engagement dealing with:

  • Debt and money management
  • Education, employment, training and volunteering
  • Mental health
  • Substance misuse
  • Physical Health
  • Criminal Justice
  • Welfare benefits

There is also support for people to engage within their community to feel more connected, and support people to access community peer networks, groups and links.

In Kingston, the Fresh Start programme works with both single households and families.

Target groups are:

  • Long term unemployed (2+ years)
  • Household debt (including rent arrears)
  • Households who are just about managing (using food banks, social service involvement etc)
  • Households with truanting children
  • Households with limited community connections (isolated elderly, disabled and young families)
  • Households involved in the criminal justice services, or anti-social behaviour

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