BACKGROUND TO FELLOWSHIP

In 2013, as an ex-local authority housing support officer, I became self-employed within my specialism of homelessness address and property management for the socially disadvantaged. As I left my career with the cash-strapped local council in 2011, buy-to-let was booming: Between 2008 and 2015, 600,0000 private landlords were created, a plethora of new stakeholders in the marketplacelxxv. Frustrated with the lack of options being provided by my previous employer, I couldn’t help but wonder whether this type of housing could provide poverty-stricken households with rapid access to the stability of choice-based affordable homes; accommodation which had the ability to fully suit individual need.

Background to Fellowship - Housing First in Manchester: Participants of my unofficial pilot scheme between 2013 – 2015
2013: Beginning to source housing for the homeless, in Fallowfield, South Manchester

So that I could conduct unbiased research, I visited people experiencing homelessness on the streets of Manchester; at soup kitchens, in day centres, hostels and at various squats. I met with chronic rough sleepers, homeless activists, charity workers, volunteers and council officials. I spent each day immersed in this dark and unknown world, in an attempt to understand successes, failures, needs and desires; talking and listening to people affected by homelessness and housing instability, for all kinds of reasons.

Concurrently, I concentrated significant efforts on aligning with established property practitioners, so I could explore and investigate new ways of working in affordable housing. To penetrate the established professional network, I free-shared my knowledge and affiliated with reputable colleagues to host educational, social, development and training events. I spent countless hours providing practical support to investors, landlords and letting agents online, over the phone and face-to-face so that I could understand their objectives, reservations and limitations, whilst simultaneously guiding them to improve and enhance their services.

As I began to gain the trust of my peers, I was granted unrestricted access to a widerange of private housing options; those which had the potential to be distributed to individuals in need. In May 2013, I was offered approval from Manchester City Council to conduct and facilitate an unofficial, independent ‘Housing First’ inspired pilot scheme; however, with no funding or resources available to support my work, I had to be extremely creative in order to deliver and lead such an ambitious project. Ploughing in my life savings, over the next two years I worked night and day to get people off the streets and into homes: Acting as confidant and administrational assistant - as well as personal guarantor - to the vulnerable individuals referred to me by the city’s homelessness drop-in.

As I linked landlords with prospective new tenants, I worked in sync with participants to design systemised ways of working; addressing the practical challenges that inevitably arose with a solution-focused attitude. I looked to the public and voluntary sectors to provide crucial aspects of specialised tenant support that couldn’t be met by myself or the landlords, though I found that it was near impossible to provide ‘highneeds’ participants with the robust package of rehabilitative care and holistic services they so crucially needed for a tenancy to be sustained long-term – and for all parties to be happy with the eventual outcome.

Background to Fellowship - Housing First in Manchester: Participants of my unofficial pilot scheme between 2013 – 2015
Housing First in Manchester: Participants of my unofficial pilot scheme between 2013 – 2015

Copyright © by Amy.F.Varle, January 2018.
The moral right of the author has been asserted.

The views and opinions expressed in this report and its content are those of the author and not of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, which has no responsibility or liability for any part of the report.

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When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
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