In our latest spotlight on the work of Homeless Link’s Partnership Managers, Chrystalla Karvella talks about her work in London, and in particular the work of the PRS (Private Rented Sector) forum.
As the Partnership Manager for London, I work on numerous projects. This includes Forums, task groups and specific borough projects. London boroughs face different challenges in terms of preventing homelessness or supporting people at risk of homelessness, depending on demographics, location , population density and how local area procedures and dynamics work between the Local Authorities, statutory, commissioned, non commissioned services and groups.
It’s crucial to have pathways of communication between all partners in each London Borough but also avenues for communication across London Regions. My role is around supporting the sector to build strong partnerships, improve collaboration, celebrate achievements, share good practice and work together on solutions towards making systemic changes to end homelessness
There is a lot of great work that I support and represent Homeless Link in London but one area I feel really proud to be part of is the Pan London PRS Forum. This is a group that continues to evolve and go from strength to strength to support the homelessness sector in London. We share knowledge and good practice, around supporting people into PRS Accommodation, engaging with landlords, supporting people to acquire PRS tenancies and support in maintaining tenancies.
The group started in January 2022 as it was evident that a common theme kept coming up at each Community of Practice for London Supported Accommodation Services. This was ‘move on opportunities’ and accessing PRS accommodation. Frontline services experience challenges in supporting people to move on from temporary accommodation or supported accommodation across all London Boroughs. The lack of social housing meant that the PRS is presented as ‘The solution’. This also meant that many services which never supported people into PRS previously, are now moving into engaging with PRS Landlords and PRS opportunities. We identified a big gap in knowledge, confidence and expertise.
The PRS Forum was formed and a steering group has organically come together. The steering group currently includes a number of insightful, knowledgeable and passionate individuals from a range of organisations with a common purpose of supporting the sector evolve around utilising PRS opportunities more effectively. The steering group’s current membership is:
- Amarjit Bains – Bridge Outcome Partnership
- Chrystalla Karvella – Homeless Link
- Rob Payne – Hope World Wide
- Ruby Maddison – Lambeth Council
- Tara Moore – Forward Trust/Vision Housing
- Tori Western – Fat Macys
- Jana Ernest - Crisis
DWP, Shelter, New Horizons, Beam, LandAid and numerous others have been instrumental in helping us deliver various forum themes and shared knowledge and expertise with the sector.
The Forum is free of charge and open to any organisation delivering services in Greater London. It continues to attract high number of participants – over 130 frontline staff sign up to each of our quarterly online meetings and it is strongly lead by the Steering Group. Themes that we covered so far include: Dealing with the cost of living crisis and PRS, Engaging PRS Landlords, DWP and PRS, Move on for under 35s, sustaining tenancies, and psychological approaches to PRS move ons.
The Steering group has two aims.
One is to deliver the Forum to attendees across the sector, to share knowledge, provide peer support, strengthen the sector and raise awareness of service and projects; provide support and empowerment; build awareness of navigating the sector; share best practice around the Cost of Living crisis and create a resource poll full of helpful resources and practices.
The second aim is to be a policy influencer and to engage with commissioning bodies and strategic partners in order to make long lasting changes.
I am proud to be part of this work and we know that even though this is currently only covering Pan London, there is a scope of the model being replicated across the country to support the sector in all regions.