Tenants are made not born

By March 30, 2015News

This post was originally published on tenancymentoring.org.

Rich and I are now 6 weeks into our pilot with Origin Housing.

Each session we run tells us a bit more about how the people we’re working with came to move into Origin accommodation. Among the assortment of paths and events, one common story stands out. All of their moves were unplanned.

The unexpected can arrive in all shapes and forms. For one person, in a crisis-climate of escalating rents, their parents could no longer keep their two bedroom flat. There was no longer space for them at home. For another, their relationship with their family had become so damaged that increasing pressure and stress drove them away. They sofa surfed and slept rough for 6 months before coming to Origin. Another went into hiding to flee an arranged marriage to their cousin.

The ‘impromptu’ nature of their moves was something I had expected. Despite the legal definition of homelessness including a clause about ‘intentional’ homelessness – that you did not make the choice to leave your home or become homeless because of something like antisocial behaviour or rent arrears – presenting yourself to a social landlord or a local authority as homeless is rarely a planned decision.

For many, leaving home is like coming of age, a badge of honour. There’s a gradual build up as you finish school and pass society’s milestones through education into work. My first tenancy began at uni with another thousand people in the same boat, welfare officers on hand to make sure I’d settled in ok and attentive parents but a phone call away.

However, for some, especially when the transition is rushed and unexpected, the shift presents a huge challenge.

The ‘unplanned move’ can often be an indication of other issues at home. Homeless Link’s most recent data shows how ‘households under pressure’ put a strain on young people. 11% of under 25s experience homelessness due to unemployment in their family, with 9% homeless due to benefit reductions and 5% due to overcrowding at home.

The same study shows that over half of under 25s become homeless because of a relationship breakdown, usually with their parents. With the loss of that relationship goes much of the advice, financial and emotional support which most first time tenants rely upon.

Without wanting to stereotype, I can see how a precarious home-life might link in with or even cause some of the issues faced by homeless young people. Chaos at home can have all kinds of effects on a person’s education and work, not to mention their own resilience, mental and physical health.

It’s only through designing Settle’s curriculum that Rich and I have come to understand just how complex and sophisticated the network of skills is that people need to manage a tenancy. As a society, we definitely don’t give these skills enough credit.

I’m excited that our training provides an opportunity to develop an understanding of exactly what the skills are and to promote their development among young people.

At the moment, the Settle curriculum covers the four broad areas of money management (paying rent, budgeting, seeking advice), managing a tenancy (rights and responsibilities, maintaining your home, relationships with your landlord and neighbours), looking after your wellbeing (being active, eating healthily and mental health) and linking into your local community (accessing local services, hobbies and interests and having a good social network).

We’re learning quickly that all of these areas interact and the best sessions are the ones most tailored to a young persons’ needs.

All told, I’m completely thrilled to be working with such a remarkable group of people. They are all very determined and have taken a difficult journey to get here. I hope we can harness their determination and energy to change, as part of the magic of Settle is that we meet them as they make this unique transition.

Leave a Reply