Marek, a European man in his early 30s, was facing eviction from his privately rented room in a shared property which had been his home for four years.
Employed but with a low and often variable income, he had no deposit with his landlord. In recent years Marek had been experiencing problems with his mental health, most significantly anxiety and panic attacks, which he needed medical treatment for.
Finding a connection
When Marek became worried that he might lose his home, he spoke to his council’s Housing Options service, but because he had not been living in the borough long enough he did not qualify for housing through a ‘local connection’. Instead, he managed to establish a local connection through his work to one of the three boroughs in the No First Night Out partnership. Once this was confirmed, the Housing Options service referred him to the NFNO team.
The first few nights after being evicted Marek used up the small amount of money he had to stay in hostels. This soon ran out, and his workplace became the only option left for him to keep a roof over his head. This caused Marek a great deal of distress, and he told himself he was “a thief in your own company”.
Somewhere calm to sleep
No First Night Out was able to provide Marek with emergency accommodation in a Bed & Breakfast. While initially really happy to have somewhere “calm” to sleep away from the stress of squatting in his workplace, over time Marek found the B&B a challenging place to live: feeling unsafe at night, being bitten by bedbugs.
On top of this, when a short-term increase in Marek’s working hours was revoked this lead to a mistake with his benefits payments, putting him in arrears with the B&B.
'I don't know what would have happened'
Now Marek is happily settled in private rented accommodation, which was accessed through Crisis:
“That’s the thing; I don’t know what would have happened. They would maybe catch me at work, then that’s it, immediate disciplinary action,” he says.“Everything is amazing. Their [NFNO] work is fantastic. [Crisis’ worker] was very helpful. Everything is 10 points."
CRISIS Case Study: Ketifa
In late 2017, Ketifa approached the Housing Options Support Team (HOST) at the London Borough of Tower Hamlets (LBTH) seeking housing assistance. Ketifa hadn’t managed a tenancy herself before and was experiencing problems with her family. She had stayed with different friends and tried to find rooms through ads she had seen on noticeboards in local shops, however she hadn’t found anywhere affordable or where she felt safe.
Help on the way
The HOST team looked at Ketifa’s requirements and made an onward referral to the No First Night Out project. A dedicated NFNO caseworker was able to quickly confirm her eligibility and further explore Ketifa’s situation, working with Ketifa on the best way forward. Ketifa’s imminent homelessness was prevented by booking her into LBTH Temporary Accommodation while her NFNO caseworker considered the next steps. Ketifa at this time felt very anxious, knowing the stability of her own home was the only thing that would enable her to move on with her life.
Bumps in the road
Due to Ketifa’s age, she was only eligible for the Shared Accommodation Rate (SAR) of Housing Benefit as she was not working at the time. Ketifa therefore had extremely limited options as it is almost impossible to find an affordable room to rent when your only income is through benefits. Ketifa wanted to get into work, but she struggled to hold down previous jobs due to issues with her health.
Ketifa’s NFNO caseworker supported her to move into the City YMCA, a supported hostel. Alongside this the NFNO caseworker also made a onward referral to the NFNO/Crisis Housing Coach, Alice Adams to start working on Ketifa’s longer term housing options. Alice worked with Ketifa to complete pre-tenancy training, where she learnt her rights and responsibilities as a tenant, how to search for affordable and secure housing in the Private Rented Scheme (PRS) and how to access private accommodation. Ketifa was eager to learn and the more sessions she attended the more her confidence increased.
Alice was also able to guide Ketifa through benefit difficulties and rent arrears throughout her 3 month stay at the City YMCA. The NFNO Project, YMCA and Alice worked closely together to ensure Ketifa was supported to maintain her stay at the City YMCA, meaning Ketifa would leave with an exemption from the SAR and be able to move into a studio flat. There can be more options and accessibility to studio flats than shared accommodation when individuals only income is through benefits.
A safe space to call home
Ketifa was supported by Alice to attend property viewings and eventually supported into a private rented studio flat in a neighbouring borough. Ketifa was so happy when she moved in – she said the best thing was having a key to her own door and that she felt safe there. Ketifa is managing her tenancy well and this is thanks to the lessons learnt at the pre-tenancy training. An example of this was when there was a leak in Ketifa’s flat; she was able to turn off the water when the fuse tripped and eventually turn the electricity back on.
Ketifa continues to manage her rent payments on time and has effective communication with her landlord and Universal Credit staff. She continues to be in contact with Alice from Crisis, however this becomes less frequest as she grows in confidence and prepares to return to employment.
Some words from Ketifa
"Alice has helped me get my life back. When I first went to Crisis I was stuck, I had no home, no support, and felt all alone. Emotionally she has helped me throughout my struggles, she has strengthened my confidence and has provided me a home. I still receive help and support from her for any problems and knowing that she is there for me makes a difference in my life."
"When I look back at my life before and where I am now I couldn't be more thankful and this is all because of Crisis/Alice."
"I thank Crisis and Alice for changing my life. I would be grateful forever."
When Liam, a man in his mid-30s, was released from prison around two years ago, he was placed into a hostel. After getting behind on his rent he was forced to leave and spent the next year sofa surfing, all the while knowing his situation was precarious and that he would likely end up on the streets.
If he had not had help, Liam says, “I think I would still be nowhere; wearing the same clothes for a week; waking up on someone else’s sofa and having to leave straight away because I’ve outstayed my welcome.”
Liam was referred to No First Night Out by Jobcentre Plus in Hackney and, thanks to the partnership between NFNO and JCP, he was able to attend an assessment with a caseworker right away, on site at the Jobcentre. Liam’s impression of the assessment process was that it was unrushed, and explored his situation in depth, before methodically reviewing the possible options with him.
'I was really impressed'
Although attempts to find Liam a place in emergency accommodation were unsuccessful, the NFNO caseworker kept in regular contact with him and within ten days had arranged viewings for three private rental properties.
“I got a call from them with these three options. I was really impressed that they’d been chasing all those options for me.”
Liam accepted an en suite room in a shared property and moved in within a week. The property in outer London was provided by Liberty Housing, and Liam is happy with the size and quality of his new home.
Working in partnership
As well as helping with accommodation, No First Night Out were able to use their partnership with Crisis to register Liam, who had professional catering experience, onto a work program in the Crisis Café. This was followed up with a work placement at a nearby restaurant.
When Liam first came into contact with NFNO, he was facing a number of challenges: struggles with drug and alcohol use, problems with his benefits, and mental health issues, he felt reluctant to seek help.
Liam saw work as key to helping him: “I know there is an underlying problem, but I think getting into work and sorting out the housing is helping to get back to where I need to be. The Crisis work placement has been a huge boost for me mentally."
"It’s all on me now.”
When NFNO caught up with Liam recently he had settled into his new area and said he was feeling physically and mentally well, and spent a lot of time exercising. “I’m in a much better place than I was last year. I’d say I’m feeling really positive”. He has been for several interviews in recent weeks and feels he is getting closer to finding a job.
The issues Liam experienced relating to Universal Credit payments when he first moved in have now been resolved, and he says he is managing to make ends meet financially.
'A foundation to build from'
Liam remains very positive about his experience with No First Night Out:
"Still to this day I’m so grateful. It’s given me some kind of stability; a foundation to build from."
HOPE worldwide Case Study: Helen
Helen is university-educated and for most of her working life had a job she liked and enjoyed. Sadly, at the age of 60, what she thought could never happen to her did: Helen became homeless.
Helen has a long history of suffering with mental health issues, and despite the fact she was fulfilled in her work she often struggled with profound depression. Her situation became critical when Helen began to experience difficulties with her boss due to a personality clash. Helen's mental health deteriorated, and she had what she would later come to understand as a breakdown. As a result, work became increasingly difficult and Helen found herself terminated from her job. Unfortunately, accommodation was attached to her work and so Helen found herself without a home.
As many people who experience homelessness do, Helen had no options but to stay on friend's sofa. Eventually things came to a head when the friend asked her to leave. By this time Helen had used up her entire savings. At this point in her life Helen, who had always regarded herself as self-sufficient and independent, found herself in a desperate situation: no money to afford rent and nowhere to live. She sank deeper and deeper into depression and even found herself thinking about suicide.
After approaching her local council and applying for Employment and Support Allowance, Helen was offered ‘temporary accommodation’ while a more permanent solution was sought.
One year later, she was still in her temporary accommodation. She had been harried by letters, emails and phone calls about the need to move out and find her own place to live. But Helen did not know anything about where and how to look for a landlord who was willing to accept someone on benefits. It was then that Helen was referred to the team at No First Night Out where she met one of our caseworkers, who thought she would be suitable for HOPE worldwide’s Private Rented Sector scheme.
Having a place to call home
Helen is now living in a pleasant studio flat in Hackney. HOPE worldwide were able to find her this accommodation after she was referred to them by NFNO. The two organisations worked together so that Helen could be supported in visiting HOPE worldwide’s office to go through an initial assessment process.
Helen's mental health condition – and the onset of panic attacks – meant that she found leaving her temporary accommodation impossible at times. After the initial meeting she also struggled to come to tenancy training, and later to go on the viewing to see a flat. Her caseworkers at HOPE worldwide and NFNO spent much time talking to Helen on the phone to give her the reassurance she needed to make each step. At this point she felt she was treated with genuine respect and understanding. To Helen this was critical. She felt deeply ashamed about her mental health condition and the circumstances she now found herself in – a situation she never imagined she would come to. The two agencies working closely together made all the difference to achieve a positive result for Helen.
Looking back 3 months on
The result is that Helen is now housed in a flat where she feels safe and secure and can continue to recover and get the mental health support she needs to move on with her life. It took a lot of courage for Helen to approach her council, NFNO and subsequently HOPE worldwide, but the result has been a very positive change in her life. Three months after moving into her flat, Helen reflected on her experience:
“I knew from the day I moved into temporary accommodation, more than a year ago, that I would need to move on to something more permanent. But I was reluctant to do so – until I was met with understanding about my mental health issues, which then I found hard to admit to having! HOPE worldwide were very clear in their communication about expectations of me, but I experienced a lot of patience and kindness in working with them.”