Home’s where Kevin’s heart is as he helps tenants in need

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28th July 2022

Sanctuary

Housing and Community Connector Kevin Carr

For Housing and Community Connector Kevin Carr, keeping every Sanctuary tenant in a safe, secure and stable home is the goal.

Based in Priesthill in Glasgow, he recently joined three Glasgow City Council representatives at a conference which brought together like-minded people from across Europe.

The European ROOF Network was created to help find solutions for homelessness. Nine cities have been involved over the past three years, with the UK represented by Glasgow.

The UK delegation met counterparts from Ghent and Liege in Belgium, Braga in Portugal, Odense in Denmark, Poznan in Poland, Toulouse in France, Thessaloniki in Greece, and Timisoara in Romania.

Here Kevin, one of three Housing and Community Connectors at Sanctuary all based in the west of Scotland, tells us why this is so dear to his heart.

“I joined Sanctuary in April 2021. For the previous three years I was part of the street team for the charity Simon Community Scotland.

“In Glasgow city centre we advocated for the homeless, trying to get them a home, or help with addiction, or money.

“Some people were completely destitute. We were the link that connected them to support services to try and make their lives a bit better.

“When I look back, in my own naivety, I thought it was ‘job done’ when they got their own property. But in many ways getting a property was the start of new problems.

“Some people would be back out in the streets after a few weeks, simply abandoning their home, because they had lost the skills they needed to live; to pay bills, to cook, to wash clothes or be neighbourly.

“When a friend pointed out the role at Sanctuary, I knew it was for me. This job is all about stopping people becoming homeless in the first place.

“Even where people owe rent or have been antisocial, our goal is to stop them becoming homeless, which helps both the person and Sanctuary. It might cost three times someone’s debt to have to chase that debt, restore the property and rent it out to someone else. If we do not help it simply kicks the can down the road for the next person to pick up.

“Rent arrears is the major reason for eviction. With the cost of living crisis people will always feed and clothe their children before paying rent. People will promise anything just to stay in a house, but the reality is they cannot afford to pay it and the cycle begins again.

“I can act as a go-between for a tenant and their housing officer and try to find a solution, and a realistic way to tackle any rent arrears. The Housing team have been amazing in their support for this approach.

“I was proud to help one lady who had a long-standing alcohol problem. The addiction services did not take her situation seriously because she had a roof over her head. The lady’s housing officer, our welfare rights officer and I worked together to help get her a place in rehab. This intervention was successful, and the lady’s tenancy remains secure.

It’s important that we recognise the prevalence and impact of trauma in the communities we work and with the tenants we support. Trauma has long-lasting effects on people and their behaviours. It’s vital we understand this, and only then can we provide what they need from us.

“I think the ROOF Network has shown Glasgow is ahead of most UK cities in helping people sustain their tenancy. It has been an opportunity to promote both what we’re doing at Sanctuary Scotland and our Housing and Community Connector model’s success.

“My favourite part of the conference was playing five-a-side football with people who had been homeless in Belgium.

“After games these guys would tell us their stories, how they’re now in tenancies and feel part of a team. Their journey mirrors the outcome we want for our tenants in need in Glasgow.

“I like to think we bring some hope, empathy and kindness to residents who are at risk of losing their home. We’ve much to be proud of when it comes to preventing homelessness but continue to look for ways to improve how we serve those in need of help.”