AMAT (Ashdown Medway Accommodation Trust) provides temporary accommodation, support and intensive housing management homeless people, ex-offenders and people with substance misuse issues.
Jodie Geddes from AMAT describes the move-on options in Medway and their alternative concept of a ‘working house’ that they are currently piloting. They have more than 250 residents and 14% of their workforce is made up of ex-service users.
There are two move-on options available to residents in Medway. They can make use of the PRS but this often requires getting into debt as they have to obtain a Crisis or Budgeting Loan to fund the deposit required by the landlords. Alternatively, they can register for the HomeChoice scheme in which they bid for properties. However, this can be a long process because there is insufficient affordable housing available.
AMAT is a Direct Access Hostel that offers supported accommodation and intensive housing management. It is too expensive for someone not receiving benefits to rent a room. In other words, they have to be unemployed to stay with us. The local authority’s housing department also have no obligation to help someone who works but is homeless. This creates a catch-22 situation – choose between getting a job or having somewhere to live. So we came up with the concept of a working house ....
We reduced the core rent of the rooms in an empty house to £83.87 per week inclusive of all bills. This was a big gamble, as we still pay the landlord the original rent. Each resident signs an agreement, tells us who their employer is and their pay date. We then use this information to confirm their employment details and find out when we can expect the rental payment. On top of the rent the resident agrees to pay an additional amount of at least £40 a week, which is saved for them to be used as a deposit in the future. We anticipate that each resident will be in the house for approximately 15 weeks, giving them enough time to save a decent amount to move on. If any of the residents lose their job we find them alternative accommodation within the project and return the money they have saved whilst in the working house.
We have recently filled the house, so we are all very excited. We expect there will be teething problems, because it has never been tried, but we are also expecting some very positive results from our first of hopefully many working houses.
This article first appeared in Connect magazine (Issue 33 August 2008)