Was it not Bob Dylan who said that ‘Times are a changing’? That has certainly been the case in the HOMELINK Office so far this year – both from a staffing perspective and also the changing climate within the housing rental sector, too.
Our well-liked and highly respected Client Manager, Pippa Grace, unexpectedly stood down in July due to illness. Her legacy and positive impact on clients and partner agencies locally will linger for many years and this was reflected in a plethora of tributes received. I, myself, benefitted from Pippa sharing her vast knowledge and her excellent induction programme for the role which was used for my ‘on boarding’ here in February. Thank you Pippa.
As one door closes another one opens and, at the time of writing, the Management Committee are in the process of recruiting a candidate to replace Pippa. Whilst all this has been happening, I have been guiding our front line service for loans by myself (but with the considerate support of volunteers and trustees to whom I extend my grateful thanks) and, with a few extra hours every week, I am pleased to report that our service is fully up to date.
In 2021 HOMELINK has been in greater demand than ever to help address a ‘perfect storm’ of issues facing those that are homeless (or facing homelessness) to those that are in inappropriate or overcrowded accommodation and more. Section 21 eviction notices have been more prevalent since the government lifted their pandemic ban in May, housing stock is in short supply with demand far outstripping supply and actual market rental rates are surging ahead of local housing benefit rates in many parts of the Lewes District. All this, plus a real reduction in universal credit amounts paid, will have consequent effects on possible permanent housing solutions for some and affordability issues for others.
Calendar year to date, we have taken more referrals and applications for loans than in each of the three last full years (currently at 293). Interview assessments are high too at 260 for the year so far. 80 new loans have been made allowing 80 new tenancies for our clients who were otherwise struggling with their previous housing situations. Loan repayments are running at a fantastic 85% which ensures our operating model is future proofed for the benefit of others and in no small part to our Repayments Officer – Frances Hymas, take a bow!
Our small grants service for essential household items is going from strength-to-strength and is admirably administered by Joanna Slaughter and Gill Short both of whom are offering their services on a voluntary basis. Their efforts in making 75 grants since January is remarkable as many of the cases are involved, less than straightforward and time intensive. Thank you to them both.
As we move forward into the shorter autumnal and winter days we know our contribution to the housing challenges of many locally (and those often being the most vulnerable or on lower incomes) has never been more needed – I am so proud to work for HOMELINK. It is a privilege to help clients wherever I can.
My best wishes, Gary
HOMELINK’s Client Manager