ProxyAddress has announced the start of its pilot in the London borough of Lewisham. The service uses the duplicated address details of existing homes to provide those facing homelessness with a consistent, secure, and free address which they can use to access the support they need.
Losing your home means losing your address. But in 21st century Britain, an address is not just a location – it’s a de facto form of ID. Without one, people experiencing homelessness can be prevented from accessing vital services like maintaining or opening a bank account, applying for a job or a driving licence, accessing benefits, receiving post, or registering with a GP.
Chris Hildrey, founder of ProxyAddress, said: ‘Nobody should be left alone or without recourse to help in times of need. The action already taken to help rough sleepers during the Covid-19 pandemic is a silver lining to a tragic situation but there remains a systemic barrier to helping those facing all types of homelessness: instability. Until stable housing and wrap-around support is available for all we need to find innovative ways to help those trapped in precarious situations. With the end of the furlough scheme approaching, now, more than ever, we have a duty to provide a lifeline to those most in need.’
ProxyAddresses are provided with explicit consent from property owners – including councils, housing associations, housing developers, and private donations – without impacting the original property’s credit score, value, or postal deliveries.
For post, the ProxyAddress serves only as a routing instruction rather than a final destination. Mail addressed to a person at their ProxyAddress can be redirected to a collection point of their choosing, ensuring their details – and ability to access support – stay the same throughout the recovery journey, no matter how often they move.
New UK-wide research commissioned by ProxyAddress into the public’s views, perception, and experiences of homelessness expose the scope and impact of this problem across the country. 20% of people know at least one person who has been made homeless in the past three years, and almost 50% say that little or almost nothing is being done to prevent it. Furthermore, more than one in twenty think it is likely that they will be made homeless within six months, rising to more than 1 in 10 for under-35s.
Three-quarters of those asked were supportive of the ProxyAddress initiative with a third willing to consider donating their own address to help those in need to access support – more than enough to provide a ProxyAddress to every person facing homelessness in the UK today.
Tom Copley, Deputy Mayor of London for Housing and Residential Development said, ‘I am proud to support the pilot of this innovative and potentially life-changing project. For people who have been made homeless, the serious problems that arise from the loss of a home address can be a crippling blow to their chances to rebuild their lives. The team behind ProxyAddress have come up with an elegant and creative solution to a problem many would see as insurmountable and I look forward to seeing a wider roll-out in the near future.’
This innovative system requires the highest levels of security and safety. The pilot will seek to establish ProxyAddress’ compliance with anti-fraud regulations, opening bank accounts using a ProxyAddress in place of a proof of address as part of the Financial Conduct Authority’s regulatory sandbox. By meeting the requirements of such rigorous compliance processes, this pilot is the first step towards further systemic change.