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Countywide project to tackle homelessness

People faced with the terrifying prospect of becoming homeless are getting specialist help through the Homelessness Trailblazer project – one of just 28 pilot schemes nationwide – which is funded by an £890,000 grant from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), which pledged £50m towards tackling homelessness in the UK.

Together the Essex Housing Officers Group – a collaboration of district, borough and city councils, and housing providers – and Essex County Council, secured the funding to create the Homelessness Trailblazer project that has put 10 specialist mentors into operation to identify people at risk and to intervene before they lose their homes.

The mentors are trained to support offenders, those suffering with mental health issues, families, young people, people from out of the Essex area, as well as those with severe and/or multiple disadvantages. Intervention focused on those most in need and offers improvements to help create a sustainable homelessness prevention strategy.

This collaborative project has prevented 29 people from becoming homeless in its first three months of operation.

Cllr Sue Lissimore, Cabinet member responsible for housing, said: “This project could have a drastic impact on the way we tackle homelessness in Essex. It is the first collaborative effort of its kind in Essex and will ensure everyone is working together to prevent people from losing their homes in the first place, rather than trying to pick up the pieces afterwards.”

Averting Crisis: Trailblazer Intervention Prevents Homelessness

* Names have been changed to protect identity

Julie’s story

“Julie turned to drink and became so depressed it affected her children, one of whom has a disability, and their behaviour deteriorated.

Soon her landlord launched legal action over her rent arrears and having been brought up in the care system, her situation brought up some difficult memories and emotions.

Her Trailblazer mentor encouraged her to seek medical help for her depression and also organised her finances, negotiating a payment plan with the landlord who stopped the eviction and agreed to let her stay.”

Emma’s story

Emma had buried her head in the sand under the weight of considerable debt due to mental health issues and a physical disability. On top of that her landlord had launched legal action for rent arrears and she simply couldn’t see a way out.

A homeless Trailblazer prevention mentor convinced her to tackle her problems head-on and to discuss the situation with a family friend, who stepped in to clear a chunk of Emma’s rent arrears.

The landlord subsequently closed all legal action and allowed her to stay in her home. The mentor has helped Emma set up a strict budget and financial payment plan to ensure she stays on top of rent payments in the future.”

Joanne’s story

“A single mum and her teenage daughter, who suffers from ADHD, were facing eviction after falling behind on their rent.

Joanne had suffered a multitude of challenges in her life and didn’t have anyone to lean on for support or advice.

On top of that, she had just come out of an abusive relationship with the child’s father and was coping with cancer-related health problems, which meant she neglected her finances.

Completely overwhelmed by her situation, she had just five days before she was due in court because of her rent arrears. The Trailblazer mentor stepped in and submitted a report to the judge, who ruled she could stay in her home and continue to work with the mentor.

The mentor helped her set up a Standing Order to pay the arrears and continues to support her in her financial affairs, but also in getting medical help.”