Croydon Council’s work in helping struggling families to avoid homelessness has reached the final of a national award that recognises housing innovation.
In January 2017, Croydon and around 30 local charities and voluntary groups launched Community Connect so more households could benefit from the approach created by the council’s Gateway service, which offers help with housing, benefits, debt management and social care assessment.
Last October, these partners opened The Food Stop, London’s first welfare and food club. Launched at the Family Centre in Fieldway in partnership with food charity FareShare and local groups, The Food Stop provides £20 worth of fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, dairy and other foods each week for £3.50.
The Food Stop now has 97 members, who, in return for the cheaper food, also get other benefits including a weekly jobs club, a cookery course and budgeting help. It has saved its members thousands of pounds in bills since the scheme began, and the council is now exploring where else in Croydon the Food Stop model could work.
The council’s work on Community Connect has now led to it being named as a finalist at this summer’s UK Housing Awards 2018 under the category of Innovation of the Year.
Since Gateway was set up in 2015, its staff have helped more than 1,300 families avoid homelessness, supported over 500 people into jobs, and given £2m to support residents with rent arrears. In the past year, the Gateway service has also run budgeting, employment, debt and housing workshops for 500 residents and helped more than 2,200 people on Universal Credit with their digital skills.
In addition to opening The Food Stop, over the past year the new Community Connect alliance of statutory, voluntary, community and private sectors has widened the Gateway approach to:
• prevent 29 New Addington and Fieldway households from becoming homeless, including preventing eight evictions;
• reduce rent debts and improved household finances among 34 families; and
• help 27 residents into work or training, 14 of whom had been long-term unemployed.
“I’m very proud of our nomination because it recognises a partnership between the council and more than 30 local voluntary organisations working together to support people who are struggling to make ends meet.
“One of this partnership’s particular successes has been The Food Stop in Fieldway, which has already almost filled its 100-member target, and which we’re now looking to take to other areas of the borough.”
Councillor Hamida Ali, cabinet member for communities, safety and justice
The UK Housing Awards, which are run by the Chartered Institute of Housing and trade publication Inside Housing, will be held on 2 May in Westminster.
The Food Stop opens every Wednesday and Thursday to anyone with an address in Fieldway or New Addington wards, with priority given to jobseekers on benefits such as Universal Credit. For more information, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01689 844277.