Sheffield housing association provides a safe haven for people in need

Written by Athena Stavrou

A housing association in Sheffield has been providing accommodation for homeless people and those fleeing abuse, violence or exploitation.

Choice Housing Trust gives people in need supported housing around the city and provides each resident with a regular visiting support worker.

Robert Mellors, founder of Choice Housing Trust, was homeless himself in the 1990s and now uses his knowledge to help others. Mr Mellors said: “We provide not just a roof over their heads, but also ongoing support to help them address the issues that may have lead to them becoming homeless.

“This lays the foundation stones for them being able to move on into independent accommodation when they are ready for this transition and we help with this too.”

Residents claim Housing Benefit to cover rent and pay a small amount towards heating and electricity bills. However, the cost of providing support is not covered by Housing Benefit, and residents do not receive any funding from the government or charities. Accordingly, Choice Housing Trust relies on public donations and trading activities to pay Support Workers.

The programme was set up in 2004 after Mr Mellors had spent four years working as a Homelessness Officer in various local authorities. He said: “I became more and more frustrated with the bureaucracy and politics within local authorities that prevented ideas [to help people] coming to fruition. 

“I decided to take the step of setting up my own housing association so that I could help those people who did not qualify for council housing and were unlikely to be accepted by most private landlords, as I felt that councils were not meeting this need.”

So far, the organisation has housed and supported over 600 people, and continues to provide accommodation to about 50 people a year.

Recently, it developed specialist housing for victims of domestic violence who have mental health issues. The accommodation has a state of the art CCTV system and has an increased level of staff presence on site, in addition to the standard security Choice Housing Trust provides in all housing, such as steel reinforced doors and heavy duty locks.

Mr Mellors hopes to offer further specialist accommodation for people who need a higher level of supervision or support, but says this would be dependant on the level of funding they can raise.

“There’s a great many more people out there that need this help,” he said.

To help support Choice Housing Trust, you can donate to their crowdfunding page here.

Written by Athena Stavrou

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