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Housing charity averts Christmas crisis

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Published by NigelHowle for Staffordshire Housing Group in Housing and also in Communities

Ben Sheppard moves into his new home Ben Sheppard moves into his new home

Two young men who risked being homeless at Christmas will now have a roof over their heads thanks to a scheme launched by a Staffordshire charity.

Ben Sheppard, 25, and Zak Machin, 21, expected to spend the festive season in hostels before they contacted Arch.

Ben, who hails from Bristol, moved back to Stoke-on-Trent earlier this year to be closer to his three-year-old daughter and was originally living in a hostel, but he soon decided it wasn’t a suitable place for a child to visit.

He contacted Arch, which is based in London Road, Stoke, and staff arranged for him to meet Zak to see if the two men would be a suitable match to share a property.

The Arch scheme – the Private Sector Shared Housing Service – was launched in August and aims in part to help young single people adjust to changes in housing benefit.

The scheme pairs up single people aged 18 to 34 to share a home. When prospective tenants join the scheme, staff begin the matching process which brings together individuals who have compatible lifestyles and outlook.

Ben and Zak were given the chance to visit a two-bedroom terrace house in Tunstall together, decided they were compatible and moved in just a few weeks ago.

Ben, who studies plastering at Stoke-on-Trent College, said: “It was a massive relief to get this place. When I was at the hostel I felt down all the time and I was having problems sleeping, but when I found this place I felt completely normal again.

“Now I’ve got my own place and the best thing about it is my daughter is in walking distance.

“This is a really good scheme. I’d recommend it to anybody who found themselves in the situation I was in, and I get on really well with Zak. I would have been homeless by now if it hadn’t been for this. There would have been the hostel, of course, but it just wasn’t right.”

Zak, meanwhile, had also been living in a hostel after his parents split up at the end of last year. He found work with a fairground earlier this year and spent the summer in south Wales, but when the fair moved back to Stoke-on-Trent his caravan flooded and he was forced to move out.

He spent some time living with a friend before moving into the hostel where officials put him in touch with Arch.

“I really didn’t expect to move out of the hostel before Christmas, but I found this place within a month of applying so it’s been a real bonus.

“Ben’s a good lad and you know if you’re going to get on straight away. This is my first property so I’d like to stay on here for a good while yet.

“Arch is the only way you can get help if you’re homeless – there isn’t very much out there.”

Zak and Ben are the first beneficiaries of the scheme. The scheme covers Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle and aims to find homes for 30 people in the next 12 months, having forged links with a group of private landlords who have agreed to take on the tenants.

The tenants benefit because they do not have to find a deposit before moving in, while the landlords have the assurance that the tenancy is backed by Arch. Prospective tenants also undergo training to make them aware of their tenancy responsibilities.

Mark Adamson, Landlord Liaison Coordinator at Arch, said tenants also receive a furniture pack when they move in and support in the first few months of their tenancy.

“The scheme has taken off in a massive way and it’s the best one I’ve ever worked on. The turnover is quick and we tend to place people in a couple of weeks or so.

“People are a little wary about sharing beforehand but we’ve found they do form good relationships. We want to match people who are compatible and it’s a question for us of getting over the idea that it’s good to share.”

He added that under the welfare reforms people aged 18 to 34 would receive less help with housing costs so it was more economical to share a property.

Landlords or prospective tenants who want to know more about the scheme should contact Arch on 07816 072270.

ENDS

For media enquiries contact Sandra Barber at Staffordshire Housing Association on 01782 744533.

Notes to editors:

Arch North Staffs is part of the Staffordshire Housing Group. Arch provides accommodation and support to people in need, including survivors of domestic violence, people in housing need and young people leaving care.

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