#YouMadeItHappen

The day after World Homeless Day 2019, we joined in with other charities around the country to use the hashtag #YouMadeItHappen. It was being used to celebrate the volunteers that bring the work of the charities to life.

At Rentstart we’ve been really fortunate to have been given time from some amazing volunteers. Time is one of the most valuable resources and it’s inspiring to see what the charity can achieve by people giving their unique skills.

This has become even more important for us since opening our daytime Hub, as we have somewhere clients can come and meet with the charity face to face. It’s somewhere open every week day (soon every weekend as well), with no fixed agenda. Thanks to volunteers, we’ve been able to support people with valuable work skills, social skills and personal skills. Overall, we’ve been able to provide consistent, safe face to face time with our clients who really value it.

We’d love to have more volunteers involved in what we do. If you’d like to speak more about how you can help end homelessness locally with your skills, personality and time, please get in touch with John at john@elmbridgerentstart.org.uk or call the office 01372 477167.

The news this week...

I’m sure that like us you were saddened by the release of new figures this week from the Office of National Statistics that show that an estimated 726 homeless people died last year in England and Wales. Most of those who died were men, with an average age of just 45.

If you would like to read the report you can do so here.

These deaths are preventable. We work hard locally to support our community, both those who are sleeping rough, or in cars and sheds, and importantly those who are at risk of homelessness. By working to prevent people from losing their homes we can make an enormous difference to people’s safety and quality of life.

The support we receive in turn from our local community makes a huge difference, and gives all of us a reason to be positive about the years ahead. Just this week we received a lovely email from a local lady whose children had been raising funds to support our clients. We will continue to go and seek out our local rough sleepers and keep them safe, and we thank you, our community, for enabling us to do so.

Three housed... three different stories

We’ve recently housed three people who came to us in very different circumstances: one had been rough sleeping, one was sofa surfing and one was in temporary accommodation.

This shows something typical that we come across: homelessness has many faces.

In our borough homelessness is often hidden, with many of our clients having been sleeping on the sofas of their friends. Sofa-surfing is a precarious way to live, with little privacy, much uncertainty and no space of your own. As one client told us: “I’m looking forward to having somewhere to hang my clothes up again.”

Homelessness is all around us, from the rough sleepers to those living in unsuitable or temporary accommodation; we are delighted that these three clients all now have a place to call home.

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Freedom to.....

This week we’ve been writing up some reports for funders, one of them concentrates on our project called “Freedom2work” which is now at the end of its third year.

The aim of Freedom2work was to support our clients into quality and sustained work, enabling them to move on from our support. We not only housed these clients, but gave intensive employment support and helped them to budget and save towards a future living independently.

“On Thursday I have an interview with someone at Brooklands college – it’ll be the next positive step. With domestic wiring – maximum six months and I’ll be qualified.”

74 people have now been part of this project, with 36 of them now working and 62 saving regularly - between them they have saved over £7,000.

We are delighted with the results of the project - which still continues - and hope to support many more of our clients into employment and independence in the months to come.

A review of last year...

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This week saw us publish our brand new Annual Report that covers April 2018 -March 2019.

We hope you might like to take a look at how we have been developing, and the whole report can be read here.

We are incredibly proud of our clients, our volunteers and our team and very grateful to everyone that supported us last year.

Key highlights for us include:

92% of the 154 clients we housed last year are still safely housed

43 of our clients are now in work

192 evictions were prevented

We look forward to more good news stories in the year ahead!

Breaking the 'cycle' of homelessness

One of our staff members at Rentstart, Patrick, made one of our clients very happy this week as he managed to source her a bike. He did this by teaming up with the fantastic Walton Bike Project.

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Walton Bike Project take public donations of old or unwanted bikes are up-cycled to provide cycle maintenance skills, training and work experience for local job seekers and young people who will be taught how to refurbish these bikes. These good quality second hand bikes are then sold to the local community at affordable prices.

Thank you Walton Bike Project for putting on a new saddle, gifting a helmet and a bike padlock. All for free for our client.

It’s great when we can help people with practical things like this that will make such a big difference in their lives. This is one of our favourite examples lately of how we’ve been able to do that.

"Turned my life around"

This week we helped to support a client into a new home in the private rented sector. Our client had been sleeping on sofas at friends’ places whenever they could, and on the worst nights sleeping rough.

It’s always amazing when we see people housed.

It’s always touching to see how much it means to people to receive support.

_Thank you so much for helping me find accommodation. After sofa surfing and sleeping rough for the last few months I was at rock bottom and this has turned my life around. I’m truly grateful._.png

These were the words of our client. It feels like a new beginning and this is exactly why we’re doing what we’re doing at Rentstart.

Working together to end homelessness.

"On course" this week!

An area of our work that we’ve been focusing on recently is how we support our 18-30 year old clients. Berkeley Homes have generously funded this work and we are now providing a variety of different sessions from one to one coaching, through to tenancy support and employability skills sessions. These have always been aspects of our work, but we’ve found a new freedom to think about the best was to make this work well for our younger clients.

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 This week we've been taking people through Level 2 Food Hygiene courses. A simple, practical thing. We set up laptops in our meeting room, laid out some tea and biscuits and went through this online course. There are a number of barriers as to why our clients wouldn’t take on this type of course by themselves. Firstly, even the proactive thought that a qualification like this may be helpful is something that doesn’t necessarily strike you when you’ve been grappling with homelessness. Then there’re the obvious financial reasons and just having the motivation to get through something like an educational course. So we took this on as a group, and paid the course fees to enable our clients to achieve this accreditation.

 It’s great to see people take responsibility to continuously develop themselves. We’ll be working on other ideas and if you have any good ones please do let us know!