New start for homeless at H&F property guardian scheme

A man living in his car now has a roof over his head and a job thanks to an innovative partnership between Hammersmith & Fulham Council and a local security firm.

Car mechanic Tewodros Deji, 37, visited the council’s housing offices at 145 King Street earlier this month seeking accommodation. He was selected to participate in the innovative new scheme to live and work as a property caretaker in an empty council building set for redevelopment.

His new role as a caretaker role with Ambika Security Ltd quickly became a vocation as his supervisor was impressed with his work and he was offered a permanent role with the firm.

This is the first scheme of this type and is located at the Lavender Court site in White City – a former hostel which has been earmarked for redevelopment to provide 45 genuinely affordable homes.  Empty buildings can be vulnerable in the period before redevelopment and the property caretaker scheme - at no cost to the council - helps to keep buildings secure while helping those with housing needs.

“It’s great to be able to help someone turn their life around,” said Cllr Lisa Homan, H&F Council’s Cabinet Member for Housing. “This fresh start for Tewodros has also helped us secure a valuable site for re-development as we build more genuinely affordable homes for local people.”

Cllr Lisa Homan (left) listens to Tewodros Deji

Empty council property becomes a home

Last year, Lavender Court hostel residents were moved to more suitable accommodation and the council was faced with the choice of boarding up and securing the site at a considerable cost or linking up with a property guardian company instead.

In December, the council joined forces with Ambika which aims to find affordable accommodation for homeless single young people unable to afford rents due to the government’s housing benefit constraints. The scheme hopes to help people access privately rented housing where there is a risk of homelessness. 

Tewodros, who moved into Lavender Court on 15 January, said: “After becoming homeless I had been living in my car for months and my health was beginning to suffer.  Here, I have my own self-contained studio flat.

“It is wonderful to have my privacy back and be able to call a place home.  I had been struggling for so long and now I finally feel that I have my life back and can look forward to the future.”

Two young homeless women have also become live-in caretakers at Lavender Court home. One of the young women, aged 19, said: “I was made homeless after a fight with my mum and had been staying on friends’ sofas.

“I was placed in a number of hostels and then my housing officer told me about Lavender Court.  A few days later I was put in touch with Ambika and I moved in the Friday before Christmas.

“Having my own bedroom, kitchen and bathroom is simply brilliant and it’s given me the chance to save up for a deposit on my own flat. I’m so thankful for the opportunity.”

Savings and skills

In return for providing security to prevent squatters, vandals and other antisocial behaviour, these young people will be given temporary accommodation and through Ambika’s Project Basecamp, learn transferrable skills and also receive support and training to help get them back into work.

“Project Basecamp is a first; a simple low-cost scheme created by Ambika that supports single homeless people by occupying unused empty property,” said Paul Cooke, Ambika’s Managing Director.

He added: “We are very excited to be working with Hammersmith & Fulham Council who have shown vision and enthusiasm for this scheme.”

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