A helping hand for the formerly homeless – with Thames Reach and Peer Landlord

Front door with keyThames Reach has been running Peer Landlord London (PLL) schemes for around two years now, and talking about it for a lot longer. The scheme relies on a tenant, the Peer Landlord, in a shared house taking on some housing management responsibilities, and by doing so reducing the levels of rent charged to tenants.

It’s still early in the life of the scheme with the final property just handed over to us in March. However, working closely with Commonweal Housing and Catch22 (the other provider), as well as the three social investors our evaluator at the University of York, has meant that we have discussed what we’re doing more than we might normally do, and this reflective approach has challenged us to learn the lessons from what we’ve been doing.

Positive lessons learned
Some of these lessons have been very positive – the good quality accommodation offered through the scheme is popular, particularly for people who have experienced street homelessness or who have lost accommodation on the margins of the private rented sector. Mostly, not always, households have got on and forged their own ways of living with minimal input from staff. The rents charged mean that people start to benefit financially from working far sooner than they do in other types of accommodation.

Challenges and areas for development
Some have been less positive – Thames Reach’s key business is the provision of support to people who have been homeless, so we’re still learning and improving at being a landlord. In particular, we realise that we may sometimes be in danger of sending mixed messages by not acting fast enough when people don’t pay their rent. We’re looking at introducing a specialist housing management role to manage these and other schemes that use what is essentially a private rented sector model. We’re also looking at sharpening our messages to tenants about what is different about PLL – the fact that there is no time limit, but also that we don’t provide move-on accommodation, in contrast to conventional time-limited transitional supported housing.

Helping the homeless
The key objective for us at Thames Reach has been to explore how we can help people who have been homeless and who want to get to back to work, but who don’t have the financial or family support that we might take for granted, to find their own solutions to their housing problems. The support of Commonweal and our investors from Bridges Venture, Esmee Fairburn Foundation and Trust for London is beginning to demonstrate how this might be possible.

Bill Tidnam , Director of Housing and Community Support, Thames Reach

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