A groundbreaking council-led homelessness prevention initiative has reached the finals of the Guardian Public Service Awards.
The Food Stop provides around 160 struggling households with a weekly shop for £3.50, a jobs club, cookery courses and help with household finances, debt management and skills training from Croydon Council’s Gateway service.
Since launching last October for 100 members as London’s first joint welfare and food club, so far the scheme based at The Family Centre in Fieldway has:
• Prevented 47 rented households from becoming homeless through early intervention
• Saved members over £22,000 off their combined bills – each gets £20 worth of food for £3.50 a week
• Reduced the number of people behind in their rent from 22 to zero
• Helped 38 people into work or training
• Supplied 5.3 tonnes of fresh discounted food, including fruit and vegetables, meat and dairy
Now the project, run with around 30 partner organisations under the name Community Connect, has reached the last three of the housing category at the Guardian Public Service Awards, which recognise the best projects nationwide among councils and other public sector organisations.
The council’s Gateway service has also begun plans to launch three more Food Stops in Coulsdon, Monks Hill and Thornton Heath this winter as part of a wider council focus on providing more services across the borough through early help.
In 2017/2018 alone, the Gateway approach has:
• Helped over 2,400 families avoid homelessness
• Given budgeting support to over 14,900 people
• Supported over 4,700 people on Universal Credit to improve their digital skills
“We created the Food Stop with community partners to boost struggling families’ confidence, financial independence and job prospects as well as to tackle the worst effects of austerity, so whether we win or not this is a great accolade for us.
“To reach the top three nationally for public sector housing initiatives underlines how our Gateway approach is really working for Croydon residents, and we’re keen to build on this through even more early intervention work, starting with three more Food Stops in the pipeline.”
Councillor Alison Butler, deputy leader and cabinet member for homes and Gateway services
Earlier this year, the Food Stop was commended by the London Homelessness Awards and was also commended at the MJ Achievement Awards 2018.