Where you live in Bristol could increase your risk of becoming homeless. When you’re pushed out onto the street the devastation is already done and rebuilding your life can be a soul-destroying journey. What if homelessness wasn’t an inevitability? What if the cost and chaos it creates in our city could be avoided? What if preventative action could be taken? The Early Doors project has the answer to these questions.
Homelessness is not inevitable. It’s a disaster that can be averted. Early Doors was set up to help people in areas of Bristol where these risks are higher. By reaching out into these communities the team provides housing support when it is most needed – before it’s too late. Many issues contribute to a growing crisis of becoming homeless, such as debt and rent arrears, harassment, overcrowding and poor conditions. Early Doors works with all these issues and more. It knows that the best outcomes are secured when action is taken as soon as possible. This reduces the cost to the city, and importantly the cost to individuals and families – in both financial and wellbeing terms.
Bureaucracy around housing is complex. When someone is trying to find their way through a housing crisis, it’s little wonder that they would have little energy or knowhow to decode their rights from complicated rules and legislation. Early Doors has that covered, and provides personalised support to cut through the complexities, minimise the distress, and find the best resolution. The team is there to be a supportive point of call on their journey, bringing together information, support and advice at the right time. The team are passionate about developing community-based solutions to improve housing in Bristol.
The phrase “knowledge is power” is certainly true in the Early Doors approach, where building knowledge within the community is also empowering. Their community-based workshops reflect a need, particularly around complex housing themes that can be a challenge for any of us to clearly understand. A recent one held at Imperial Apartments (a controversial housing scheme operated by a private company) was, in effect, an interactive user guide to HomeChoice, the system used to bid for social homes in Bristol. It was led by Early Doors and their project partner, CHAS (a Bristol housing advice service). Although some of the participants had been registered with the HomeChoice system for a long time, a significant amount of what they learnt was enlightening. This included gaining an accurate picture of social housing in Bristol. For some this was not good news, but it helped them to formulate realistic plans and a renewed strategy to improve their chances. They found an answer to the question “what makes good evidence?” to strengthen their case, as well as practical ways to present it to their best advantage. “This is a revelation to me!” said one participant. There are no quick fixes in a broken housing system, so when it’s stacked against you, having an expert in your corner can make a huge difference. It helps to promote accessibility and understanding of housing rights and services.
There are times when a community-wide approach is a better one. This was the case with a practical workshop about using the Housing Ombudsman. Groups of residents spoke to Early Doors about complaints around disrepair they made to their social landlord. They felt they had not been listened to and felt they had reached a dead end. In a workshop, they learned about the work of the Housing Ombudsman and how they could help. Supportive connections between residents were formed. They felt that working together could amplify their voices to ensure their concerns were addressed. This strengthened community bonds through identifying shared aspirations, and the new knowledge revealed new roads ahead.