New dad who lived in a tent for months joins Derventio’s urgent Warwickshire landlords appeal
A new dad from Warwick who spent months living in a tent over cold winter months has joined an appeal for more landlords in Warwickshire to work with Derventio Housing Trust which put a roof over his head.
Simon Russell, 31, said life was looking great for him at the moment with his own place and a new baby boy, Lucas, born to him and his girlfriend Emily in December 2022.
It’s all very different to last year when he was living in a tent by a Warwick riverbank between December and March. Having struggled with drug use, he had lost his job and his home. He said:
I was living in this tent and it was horrible. I was frozen. It was wet and cold. I tried to keep out of the way by a river. My girlfriend stuck by me though and she did stay with me on a good few occasions. I was just living and thinking, ‘What’s the point?’ Basically, I was on the verge of giving up.
I was having to eat things like crisps and cold pasties. Obviously I was struggling for money because I had lost my job. I used to borrow a couple of quid off my mum: £2 or £3 to go to Lidl. I didn’t really eat properly for three months.
Things began to get better for Simon when he sought help through his doctor, and was supported firstly through P3 charity. This then led to him being referred to Derventio, which set up in Warwick two years ago and offers accommodation to people who have recently been made homeless.
Soon, Derventio had secured space in a shared property for Simon and in March 2022 he had a roof over his head again. He said:
I can’t describe the feeling. I felt so welcomed by the other residents there and I felt safe. It was just amazing. Being in a tent was so bad and the house I was moved into, in Whitnash, was really nice as well.
Now Derventio Housing Trust is appealing for more property owners to consider leasing their Warwickshire properties through us, so our housing officers can help more people like Simon get back on their feet and economically active again.
We do not just provide accommodation, but deliver a wide programme of support through caring staff and outside agencies to help people with their needs, whether they concern mental health or help with issues around substance use.
As well as that, we offer a great scheme for potential landlords, guaranteeing rent for three years with no voids, the option to extend a lease afterwards, and no letting, property management or inventory fees. Plus, we pay tenants’ utility bills and council tax, as well as inspecting properties weekly, doing the gardening in the summer months, decorating when needed and cleaning communal areas all year round.
Ben Ludford, Derventio’s assistant director for housing and support in Warwickshire, said:
We are seeing an increase in housing demand for vulnerable single homeless people and believe the current economic situation has had a significant impact on this.
They then end up in B&Bs, funded by the local authority, but that only solves part of the problem. We really need more housing stock to meet current housing needs with the local authority. It’s not just about giving people somewhere to live. Individuals we house and support often have complex requirements, such as mental health needs, and that is what we specialise in delivering. We look after people at their most vulnerable, give them a safe, secure home to live in and the support they need.
Through Derventio, Simon was supported in accessing doctor’s services and has now made so much progress he has moved on into his own council rented home. He is retraining in landscaping and construction in order to find his way back into work. Also through Derventio’s Sylvester’s Fund – a charitable pot of money set up to help people with one-off items – his new property has been furnished with a fridge freezer, washing machine, cooker and four curtain poles. Simon said:
Derventio has been very supportive, always answering the phone any time and making sure they were there for me. It just shows that there is support out there. You have just got to work with people … and also help yourself a bit. Derventio is the biggest part of where I am now.
Ben said Derventio would be able to help many more people if more property owners came forward to allow them to provide housing to those in severe need. He said:
At the moment, we are very limited in what we can do because of the shortage of housing stock. Our offer is very good: there are no hidden charges and no deductions. Financially, what we offer is a better deal for landlords than a lot of what they could achieve in other forms of letting. We guarantee to return their property in at least as good a state as it was given to us.
If we could have more properties available to us, it would have a massive impact on the amount of people in temporary accommodation needing our support at the moment. They need support to progress and to move on to living independently.
Simon said he would love to help Derventio support other people who were in a position like him. He said:
I’m doing great now. We had our little miracle in December last year when my girlfriend gave birth to our son.
If I could help other people now I’m in a better place, then I’d love to be part of that. I’ve been through it myself. It would be nice to see other people not having to suffer and sleep in doorways.
Any property owners interested in finding out more about leasing accommodation through Derventio in Warwickshire should contact Ben Ludford on firstname.lastname@example.org