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Speaking at an event to celebrate the milestone Elliott Stanwick, now living in Skelton, told his story.
Enrolling in Thirteen’s Key Step programme was the first step into a home of his own and paid employment for Elliott.
He has gone from sofa-surfing and surviving on the generosity of friends to having a home of his own in Skelton and a job as a Customer Accounts and Income Assistant at Thirteen.
Elliott said: “I’d been in and out of hostels since a couple of weeks before my 16th birthday, I’m now 29, and I’ve had many different kinds of tenancies, social and private. I moved to the North East to be closer to family, especially my Nan, having been in London, in work but struggling to find somewhere, anywhere really, suitable to live.
“I was staying with a friend, crashing on their sofa and unsure what to do next, when someone suggested the New Directions and Key Step programmes. I went on a course to prepare me for a tenancy, where I met other people similar situations. We had to choose people we were on the course with as potential housemates, for the house share, which for most people it is pretty obvious who you would get on with.
“I moved, with my housemate, to a property in Middlesbrough, where we lived together for a couple of month before I found a permanent tenancy, in Skelton, near my family. I also found my job through the scheme, which is a Customer Accounts and Income Assistant at Thirteen.
“Overall, thanks to the support I’ve received from Key Step and New Directions I’m in a much more stable position, in a home of my own, with a regular income, and I’ve been able to work on my relationship with my family. I’d absolutely recommend anyone else facing similar problems to reach out, help and advice is there and it can change your life.”
Thirteen’s Key Step programme is dedicated to supporting young people at risk of homelessness into accommodation and employment. The Key Step team offers a homelessness prevention service for people aged 18 to 34 across the Tees Valley. The project identifies people at risk of homelessness and works to improve their lives by offering support and advice: this can include help with finding a home or a job, or building resilience and independence.
Thirteen has a number of properties that have been converted into shared, supported accommodation. These are aimed to mitigate the impact of housing benefit changes for under 35s who could find themselves at risk of homelessness due to welfare reforms. An independent living worker offers support, help and advice on a range of key issues, including employment, money management and other life skills. Each resident has their own bespoke plan, based on and assessment of their individual circumstances and needs.
Key Step also works with ex-offenders to support them with housing and skills aimed at breaking the cycle of re-offending.
The project is funded by the Department of Communities and Local Government’s homelessness prevention programme.
Chris Smith, executive director of service delivery and development at Thirteen, said: "The Key Step project has already helped 17 young people who were at risk of homelessness, or are one of the hidden homeless, relying on the goodwill of friends for a bed or sofa for the night.
“We are proud to be delivering a scheme, and working with colleagues across different projects, that is having such a positive impact on the lives of local young people and Elliot is a shining example of what can be achieved, through his determination and the right support.”
Councillor Mick Thompson, Middlesbrough Council’s executive member for culture and communities, said: “It is impossible to overstate the importance of safe, secure and affordable accommodation for our young people.
“By identifying those at risk of homelessness and giving them the support they need to gain their independence and find work, Key Step is changing lives and benefiting the whole community.
“It has already made a real difference in just six months, and is a project we are proud to support.”