"Keys for keeps" scheme gives permanent homes in Colchester

Here at the DPS, we love to give back to the community through our Charity Donations Fund, by donating to charities that focus their work in the housing sector.

In the summer of 2015, we awarded £10,000 to the Colchester Emergency Night Shelter (CENS) to help them in their work supporting homeless adults. CENS offer help in a number of innovative and practical ways, from CV writing to providing emergency accommodation. They also concentrate on helping people who currently use the shelter to find and retain a long-term rented property. Throughout the first year of a new tenancy, CENS will guarantee rent payments, provide conciliation services if things go wrong, and continue to support the tenant to become an active member of the community.

Marina Woodrow from CENS tells us a little more:

“We have used our DPS funding to start our ‘Keys for Keeps’ scheme. So far we have helped 7 people into their own private rented accommodation. We are very pleased to say that they have all maintained their tenancies and are still in situ. We have worked tirelessly to establish good working relationships with our landlords and this has had a very positive effect on our ability to support their tenants. Our landlords know that they can contact us with any concerns and we will, in turn contact the tenant to address the problem.

“Upon admittance to the Nightshelter, we assess each individual to identify their support needs. As well as offering emotional support, we offer a range of practical courses to help people in their daily lives. We offer cookery courses, which include menu planning, budgeting, shopping and healthy eating. We also run a Job Club, where service users are taught how to job search online in order to fulfil the criteria for Universal Job Match. In addition, we work on budgeting with our Service Users to ensure they’re capable of managing their money when they move on. We also arrange for service users to attend first aid courses.

We work hard to build up good relationships with our service users whilst they are at the Nightshelter once they’re re-housed, our Tenancy Sustainment Officer keeps this going. If our service users are struggling with any element of living independently, we encourage them to drop into the Shelter at any time during the day to see us for support.

As an example, they may have received a letter they don’t fully understand or know how to deal with, and this is where the Tenancy Sustainment Officer (TSO) would offer guidance on how to deal with issues that may arise. The TSOs also carry out home visits to ensure that our users are maintaining the properties appropriately, and in accordance with their tenancy agreements.

Marina tells us about a real life example of how our donation made a difference to someone’s life.

“Arthur* was previously in a supported housing project but was asked to leave. He then stayed in bed and breakfast establishments until his money ran out. Then he became street homeless. He had an acute psychotic episode and was hospitalised for 4 days. He also had a severe issue with alcohol. Arthur was eager to be admitted to the Nightshelter as he believed our policy on breathalysing all residents known to have a drink problem every night would help him to abstain. He attended Alcoholics Anonymous regularly and one of the conditions of his stay was that he continued to attend.

Arthur completely embraced the philosophy of Colchester Nightshelter. He was here for about 3 months and in that time he only failed the breath test once, which resulted in him being asked to stay out for the night. He attended every meeting that he was asked to and engaged wholeheartedly with the support and courses offered by the Nightshelter, attending cookery club, first aid, job club, and many more.

We found a lovely private rented flat for Arthur and used the ‘Keys for Keeps’ fund to pay the deposit. We supported Arthur to make the change in benefits to his new address and helped him out with a starter kit of basic kitchen equipment and bedding. The flat was fully furnished so he did not have to worry about any major expenditure.

Arthur has now found work and is happily settled in his flat. He still visits us regularly, but more on a social basis rather than because he needs support. He says he did not imagine when he was rough sleeping in Clacton last April that he would have achieved so much in less than a year.

We are very grateful for the funding received from The DPS Fund. It really has made a difference to our ability to source and fund private rented accommodation for our service users and also enables us to fully embrace and take advantage of the Tenancy Sustainment role which complements ‘Keys for Keeps’ perfectly.”


*name has been changed to protect the individual’s identity.