This post is about a far from practical dream I’ve held since becoming an HMO landlady. This dream has been unearthed from the depths of my brain after picking up a leaflet asking for volunteers to man a temporary winter night shelter for the homeless, a debate with one of the kindest, most Christian ladies I know as to it’s viability and the following article which landed in my email box http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/ihstory.aspx?storycode=6517904 With much trepidation that readers may laugh out loud and recommend me for a public stoning here goes:
Over the last 5 years I’ve given ASTs to around 10 homeless people recommended through the Salvation Army. Not the normal route of advertising you’ll agree, but I naively believed that rescuing a poor soul from the cold, mean streets, providing warmth/hot water and hoping that the influence of positive, working tenants may just pay off. Only one of those homeless people is with me today, the others cocked up the tenancy quicker than I could hand over the keys through bad behaviour, drug, alcohol or girlfriend abuse and the usual non payment of rent. Each was given a chance, several warnings and finally, for the sake of the other excellent tenants in the house, eviction. I’m no expert on homelessness and this is just my limited experience.
So, not to be beaten, I’ve come up with another idea: Should funds come my way, I’m going to buy a big house for between 6 and 10 residents who are either homeless, ex-offenders or anyone else who can’t get a tenancy due to a bad reference. They’ll practice being a good tenant by learning to share communal areas respectfully, mastering cooking skills and how to wash up, tending a garden to provide for the kitchen, learn how to use a washing machine between the hours of 8am and 10pm, how to hand over their LHA (local housing allowance) bang on time and how to budget the rest of their money. On top of this they will be expected to undertake a set amount of hours voluntary work so they have something to get out of bed, washed and dressed for. If they can prove themselves capable of becoming a decent tenant, they can then apply for a room in one of my shared houses and, when they’re ready to move on, will have a glowing tenant reference, a work ethic and essential life skills.
In my dream, it’ll all be happy and cosy and we’ll laugh round the piano singing old songs – but I know that if I make this a reality it’ll be a 40% success rate because, from my experience, having responsibility for one’s own life can sometimes be just too much.
This post is not to elicit abuse or promote a debate, however if you have a spare half a million quid or words of support for the idea – I’m all ears!