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Ground-breaking scheme to help the homeless

Single mum Rowan and her baby son Mason are among 24 homeless people who have somewhere to live this Christmas thanks to a ground-breaking scheme run by two Cumbrian councils.

The Property Links scheme which works with landlords to find accommodation for homeless people has been running for 12 months and despite the COVID-19 crisis has successfully found homes locally for people who would otherwise be in a hostel, on the streets or sofa-surfing.

It is a project funded by the Government’s Rough Sleepers Initiative and run jointly by Eden and South Lakeland councils, which supports landlords by sorting out all the paperwork needed to rent a home, and gives them the peace of mind that the people they’re renting to will have all the support they need to be tenants in their new homes.

It has been such a success that 13 tenancies have been arranged in Eden and a further 11 in South Lakeland.

Single mum Rowan Baker Ellwood is among those enjoying being in her own home this Christmas, thanks to Richard Liddle and the team behind the Property Links scheme.

Eighteen-year-old Rowan endured two weeks in a homeless hostel in Kendal with her baby son, Mason, before she was able to start renting a two-bedroom home through the scheme.

“The people in the hostel were nice, but it was very tough for me. I couldn’t use the kitchen after 11, for example, which meant I couldn’t make bottles of milk for Mason.

“Now we can look forward to Christmas in our own home. The tree is up and Mason loves it,” she said.

“I don’t know where I would be without the help of Richard and the council’s scheme. He got in touch and then sorted everything out for me,” she added.

The Property Links scheme ensures that new tenants get regular visits to help with issues such as sourcing furniture or applying for benefits.

It is a reassurance for landlords too who might otherwise be nervous about renting to vulnerable people.

It is run by Richard Liddle who works as the private rented accommodation officer running the Property Links scheme for both Eden and South Lakeland councils and says the COVID crisis has brought added pressures on social housing locally.

“Some of the clients we helped went onto furlough and struggled with paying their rent so we worked with the landlords to produce payment programmes to help get people out of arrears as soon as possible.

In most cases we have been in weekly contact with clients throughout the lockdown and have been accessing as much support as possible for the new tenants.

“Thankfully we have still been able to help a good number of people in the first year of the scheme.

“In Penrith we had one client who was a single mother living in temporary accommodation due to a relationship breakdown. She was working full-time and had a five-year-old child.

“Our support meant we could offer them a two-bedroom flat in Penrith. We produced a tenancy agreement, covered the deposit, provided a photographed inventory and she is still there 12 months later – she’s had a promotion at work and is doing really well.”

Richard is now hoping that more landlords will come forward to be part of the scheme.

“It is set up so the landlord is in control. We offer a tenant finder service, advice and support which is ideal for first-time landlords and then we do all the necessary checks and support them to be a good tenant.

“Once I find a property I put forward two or three clients, organise viewings and then it’s up to the landlord who they choose. I give them the facts: who they are, what they need and we go from there,” he said.

It is an approach endorsed by Kendal landlord Jon Keegan who has let a flat in the town centre through the scheme.

He said: “I was nervous about being able to vet people properly, but the scheme ensured it has been a hassle-free tenancy.

“It has the landlord’s interests at heart, but it is good to be part of trying to help prevent homelessness.”