On a mission to combat homelessness
A new position at West Oxfordshire District Council has been created as it looks to combat the threat of homelessness.
Kathryn McLean has been appointed as Families First Officer and it is her priority to try and prevent homelessness before it happens in the District.
It is her brief to work with families and individuals who may be troubled with problems such as debts, addiction or relationship breakdown that could be putting their home under threat.
Since starting her role last month, Kathryn has taken on more than 40 cases in the District.
She said: “People can suffer from a variety of issues which affect their lives in different ways – you don’t just become homeless.
“But in many cases by the time their housing situation comes up it is too late and they are facing eviction.”
Kathryn has been speaking to agencies and charities as well as housing associations to tell them what she is doing in a bid to generate referrals and tackle their problems.
“Some are not at the eviction stage and it is better to make a planned move – they just need support to move in the right direction.”
Having previously worked with Victim Support specialising in domestic and sexual violence as well as the Salvation Army with homeless people, Kathryn is well placed to recognise the need for safety planning and the importance of risk assessment when it comes to housing.
“It is about making people feel safe in an environment in which they want to be and that can mean ensuring they are secure in their current property,” she said.
“A success for me is where there has been a multi-agency approach to ensure everything is in place around the individual and when that has been achieved, they are more likely to sustain a tenancy.
“When landlords know people are being supported then they are more amenable and some evictions decisions have been turned around since I have been involved.”
What is clear is that there is a real demand in West Oxfordshire for the work Kathryn is doing and she wants to raise more awareness of her work to ensure as many people as possible can avoid the threat of homelessness.
“There are a lot of people out there and the sooner they come to us, the more we can help,” said Kathryn.
Cllr Steve Good, Cabinet member for Housing Management, said: “Tackling homelessness or the threat of it is a key priority for the council and we have a number of ongoing initiatives.
“Kathryn is doing some excellent work to help prevent homelessness happening and improving people’s lives as a result.”