Shelter’s Thames Valley office launched as our newest hub on 1 April, and we marked the occasion with a launch party and open day. ‘We threw it open to our service users, who came along and were absolutely fantastic, and to other partner agencies,’ service manager Jackqueline Hauxwell said. ‘We ensured that people could meet and mingle with the team.’
The Thames Valley Hub is located in the Council for Voluntary Services (CVS) Building at 27 Church Street, Slough. This is the home of the Slough Advice Service that Shelter fronts, which means that if a service user comes to Shelter with a problem that we can’t help with, we can direct you to a partner organisation that can. This is what we call a No Wrong Door policy, meaning that we try and help everyone who comes to us needing assistance.
Shelter Thames Valley offers advice and support on debt, welfare and housing problems. We have a housing law specialist, a welfare rights worker and a debt advice worker in house. Through our partnerships, we can help clients get assistance from a range of other charities and support organisations too.
Sessions at the hub are run by health visitors, the Job Centre, Advocacy in Slough, our local MP, debt charity Christians Against Poverty and Slough Outreach, who work specifically with people who are street homeless. As Jackqueline said, we work to ‘try to give the clients a holistic service,’ adding: ‘You come to us we will help you get to the people you need to be with.’
The hub is based in Slough but covers the entire Thames Valley. It’s a large and diverse area including Slough and other towns on the edge of London, such as Maidenhead, Windsor, Oxford and Milton Keynes. Meetings and drop-in sessions take place in Slough, but Jackqueline explains: ‘We have ambassadors that go out into the community.’ There is also one support worker based in Oxford. The hub is building a volunteer base across the region, as they want to ‘get to the whole area that we are covering, not just a bit of it.’
The types of housing problems across the Thames Valley vary considerably. One issue is that there’s a lot of extremely poor quality private rented accommodation. To begin to tackle this, Shelter Thames Valley has worked with local authorities to introduce a registration scheme to ensure that a minimum standard of private rented accommodation is met. This started by regulating houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) and then expanded to all private rented accommodation.
As Jackqueline explains, Shelter Thames Valley helped achieve this by ‘hosting a service user meeting where [local authorities] could hear what was happening.’ This meeting was held at the hub, so service users could speak out without fear of intimidation from landlords.
The geography of the Thames Valley and its dispersed population is also a problem, as is other local authorities sending people into the area because accommodation is cheaper than in Windsor, Maidenhead or London. But as Jackqueline says: ‘[We] support tenants once they do arrive.’
Shelter’s newest hub is committed to helping the people of the Thames Valley with their housing problems. If you need housing advice or support from us, then come to a drop-in session on any weekday morning at the CVS Building, 27 Church Street, Slough. Our No Wrong Door policy means we’ll do our best to help you or find a partner organisation who can.
You can find out more about Shelter Thames Valley by visiting our website.