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Charity number 1137054
Issue 3 • Spring/Summer 2013
Milestones Since the last newsletter...
Tenant Support Worker, Chris Thorpe (second from left), with happy LeatherHead Start clients displaying their Tenancy Preparation Programme Certificates see page 3 for full story
4 games evenings have been run by a volunteer • 2 residents faced their fears on a climbing trip organised by a new volunteer • 4 trips have been organised, including bowling, laser quest and Britain’s Got Talent see page 3 •
MoVE Partnership Supports Sympathetic Landlords A busy and rewarding six months has passed since our last newsletter: We held our first AGM in the new building (see page 4), prepared for a monitoring visit from Surrey County Council to see that we are running well and worth our funding, received visits from other projects eager to see how the new hostel is working and to take away ideas, ran three rounds of recruitment and staff team training, embarked on the development of an arts and crafts stall for the clients to gain skills and sell their work on market day, and much more.
With this in mind, we are launching an exciting new project this spring: our Private Rented Sector Access Scheme, called MoVE. This is a partnership scheme with local councils, local CAB and the Probation Service to tackle homelessness by supporting landlords who take on more vulnerable people within the community. It is funded and supported by Crisis, the national charity for the single homeless, with additional funding from MVDC, Epsom & Ewell Borough Council and The Three Oaks Trust.
In the past six months, 15 clients have been supported and moved on to more independent accommodation. Their length of stay is often governed by the availability of further housing and we are turning away at least 40 callers each month who are in need of accommodation.
Roy Chamberlain, our new private rented sector officer, would be happy to hear from any landlords out there who would like to take advantage of this new opportunity. They are invited to contact Roy on 07964 173438 or email him on email@example.com
Phil underwent a major operation, is recovering well and has secured his own flat •
2 residents attended a chainsaw maintenance course funded by a local charitable trust to prepare for employment
5 residents took part in a budgeting workshop
Sue started volunteering at a local stables
David gained work experience and has now found a job
3 residents created CV’s with our job skills volunteer
8 residents took part in our Tenancy Preparation Programme - see page 3
“It could happen to
“Simple things mean such a lot ”
Probation-service jobs were scarce when Joanna Parker finished her criminology degree last year. So she did relief work at Crawley’s Open House hostel. “I enjoyed it so much that I wanted to get into it full time.
Ellen shouldn’t be here. In the 30 years between dying on the operating table as a teenager and having a near-fatal deep vein thrombosis earlier this year, she’s dodged death by drowning, road collision, drug overdose, and unspeakable domestic violence. She shouldn’t be as gentle. She tells of unbroken decades of abuse in a whisper-soft voice free of a single swear word. Her “childhood stopped” at five. Her older brother died, then her father. When her mother began drinking Ellen found herself in a care home. A thousand miles of misery begins with a single mis-step. Ellen returned the ‘hello’ of a young man sunbathing in a garden nearby. The abuse began when the 12-year-old swallowed his tiny square of blotting paper “with a smiley face on it”. It was LSD. When she left the home at 16, she was pregnant. She and her little girl were given a high-rise flat on Kingston’s Cambridge estate. Drugs softened life there and when Ellen met and married a privately educated science-lab worker, she and her daughter had a garden. But his anger inflicted an emotional battering every bit as bad as the physical injuries. Another mis-step: seven years on she left him for a kindly face that turned “beyond violent”. Two years later she was rushed to hospital with a subdural haematoma. Her battered appearance reduced the visiting hall of her tormentor’s remand prison to silence. She had to go back to her husband or lose the kids, and the old pattern resumed. Two years ago she met someone else and
left again. “Not a good choice,” she says. The sixth time this partner threw her out of their house she decided never to go back. “I just walked. With nothing.” She lived rough and stole from supermarkets for drugs. Last year, after an overdose and a four-day coma, a drug counsellor she knew from the Pitstop drop-in centre brought her to LeatherHead Start’s red door. “I was really frightened,” she says, but had “the best night’s sleep I think I’ve ever had… If it wasn’t for here I think I’d be dead. No one else would take me… “I wasn’t instantly cured the minute I walked through the door,” but when she “wanted to die” her “brilliant” key worker, Lorna, talked her through it. “There’s so much help here. They’ve shown me that it’s OK for me to have my own life and do what I want to do, and I don’t have to do what a man says. “ Simple things still delight her. She has great craft skills and really enjoys making mementoes and other decorations. But some pleasures the rest of us find hard to imagine: “The whole of my life I’ve been owned by one person or another. I couldn’t move without permission— it’s like living your whole life in a cage. Now I can walk down the shop and I can buy anything I like. To me that is the oddest thing, it’s the biggest buzz ever.”
“It was another world to see what some people struggle through. It was quite eye opening. They all need support, but they all differ in their willingness to engage with staff and improve their circumstances. “A lot of people ask me how people have ended up homeless. Most of the time it’s not an addiction, it’s relationship breakdown; and it could happen to any of us. Your relationship breaks down, you get kicked out of the house and you have nowhere else to go.” Joanna joined LeatherHead Start in November as a project support worker. Each project support worker is a key worker for two or more clients, a single point of contact to help them with whatever money, housing, medical or other problems they face. “I’ve really enjoyed it,” Joanna says. The variety appeals: “No one person has got the same set of problems or the same outlook on things.” Even if they’re negative about something, “part of what makes the job better is that you can turn them around.”
FIVE STEPS TO HAPPY TENANCY Of paramount importance to our clients is finding a permanent place they can call home. Rented accommodation is usually the first step to a second chance and a hopeful future. But keenness to move isn’t always enough. Bad landlords we know about, but ‘bad’ tenants, though they also exist, are sometimes good tenants who don’t know the rules. LeatherHead Start’s Chris Thorpe and Kat Moore tell of a recent 6 week-long workshop attended by 8 LeatherHead Start clients which confirmed that successful, permanent tenancies can become a reality. Good tenants are made, not born. But knowing a few rules can help would-be tenants make their time in rented accommodation much more secure and trouble-free. At workshops LeatherHead Start held over six weeks this year, eight of its clients had a chance to learn some of them. Step one is to find your accommodation. The workshop went through the routes: internet, the council, housing associations, shop windows, word of mouth and so on. One challenge was for everyone to find a viable property for which they could apply. Chris was pleasantly surprised that, when she rang contact numbers for rooms and house shares in or near Epsom, she got positive responses from the landlords. Step two is to read and understand the tenancy agreement. However, with the spectre of homelessness, one client told the workshop he’d sign anything just to get off the streets. Step three is to forge a relationship with a landlord. Said one workshop participant; if you treat a landlord with the same respect you’d like for yourself the chances of having a good relationship are significantly higher. The good tenant lives within their means. Step four – arguably the biggest – is money management. We advised clients how to pay for utilities, the importance of telling the council about changes in circumstances if you get housing benefit, and sourcing good affordable second hand furniture. One client told the group how a payment plan had helped him deal with old rent arrears and has made him eligible for accommodation when he leaves the hostel. For most, past failures had happened when they were at a low ebb, had no-one they could turn to and had too few personal resources to cope. In addition to all of this, deposits and rent in advance are a huge stumbling block and are incredibly difficult to source. We reassured them they don’t have to deal with these daunting problems by themselves and gave them a list of places they could go for help. Leatherhead Start may not have all the answers to hand, but we can certainly research and gain effective solutions. But there are other options: Mole Valley District Council (Housing); Citizens’ Advice; Pitstop; the Shelter Helpline, and so on. Step five: be a good neighbour. This isn’t just about not playing loud music and behaving well; it’s about know ing how to deal with neighbours less considerate. We discussed alternatives to the sometimes instinctive abrasive response. One of the things suggested was to speak to them first and make a formal complaint if all else doesn’t work. At the end, the clients said the most important things they had learned were how to seek advice, how to undertake their own research, and to write down anything important around a tenancy. The certificates they were awarded for completing the training have already proved useful in their applications for housing.
What else we’ve been up to...
OPEN DAY SHOWS OFF CLIENTS’ SKILLS
EATHERHEAD START board chairman myfanwy tothill
describes how gardening, graphics and photography
displays brightened up a celebratory leatherhead start agm
A year on from the day of our September 2011 official opening we decided to open our doors again to friends and supporters to see the progress we had made in the year. We decided to combine the annual general meeting with an open afternoon for all to see the displays of some of the activities that our clients had been engaged in during the year. Visitors were able to chat with clients and staff while they wandered round seeing the changes in the past year. In the garden we had a greenhouse, which earlier in the year had been used to bring plants on before they were transplanted to the allotment. Then other plants such as tomatoes had been planted and were growing well. In the garden room there was a continuous PowerPoint presentation—made by one of the clients during an IT workshop—of the development of the allotment. There was also a display of photographs taken by clients in Kew Gardens and locally following a photographic course. In the dining room there were art and other displays showing the many activities that the clients had been engaged in during the year. At 3.30 we gathered in the dining room for the AGM. The formal business was completed followed by questions, so all had a good understanding of how the service had changed. Light refreshments followed. We look forward to having a similar event this coming September and of course you are all invited.
OUR SINCERE THANKS...
Above: Claire Whittaker of the Real Good Bread Company with a regular donation of her delicious bread
Left: Dan and Rob, students from the local St John’s School, bring us their daily lunch donation
Phone: 01372 377790 3 Church Road Leatherhead Surrey KT22 8AT For general enquires: firstname.lastname@example.org For Manager: email@example.com For the Chair of the Board: firstname.lastname@example.org