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What’s the idea?

Fairbnb is a new initiative aiming to prevent homelessness before it happens. We help struggling families get back on their feet by matching those who don’t have a roof over their head with generous homeowners who have the space to put them up.

We do this by finding hosts who have a spare room or two, and, depending on how much room they’ve got available, they might host a pregnant woman, a single mum with kids, or a family.

Guests would stay with their hosts for a period of six to eight weeks. Their stay begins just after they've lost their home, covering the period before they can transition to more permanent housing.

We have successfully piloted the model in Croydon and believe that by taking it online, we have the opportunity to reach a much wider audience. Potential hosts will sign up online, and the platform will list the available accommodation which we can then use to demonstrate to councils the additional housing capacity in their area. The online platform will be supported by offline processes to ensure that everyone stays safe and that the accommodation on offer is suitable.

Background

Nationally, there are 78,180 families with 120,170 children in temporary accommodation.

As private sector rents have risen, not only has homelessness increased, but the profile of homelessness has changed. In Croydon and across London, lack of affordable rents is now the main reason for people becoming homeless, while the black and minority ethnic (BAME) community is the most likely to suffer.

When families become homeless many are placed in bed and breakfast accommodation until suitable accommodation can be found

These are often miles out of their home borough or area, leaving families dislodged from their natural support networks.

At present, there is no mechanism to easily connect potential hosts to vulnerable guests. In order to tackle this, we conducted a pilot with the London Borough of Croydon, where 10 guest families were placed with local hosts. This involved recruiting local hosts who had spare rooms or self-contained properties, inspecting properties and DBS checking hosts. We identified and vetted homeless guests who presented to the council, and matched them to hosts for placements that ranged from one night to six months.

Our pilot revealed that plenty of Croydon residents wanted to be hosts, felt positive about the experience and wanted to do it again. We also established that local placements of this kind could save Croydon Council over £1 million annually.

Why the ShareLab Fund?

Currently, the offline aspects of Fairbnb have been tested, including host recruitment and guest placement and the support needed from council officers.

The ShareLab funding enables us to take the model online, when it immediately becomes scalable.

By asking potential hosts to sign up and geolocating them, we can provide evidence to councils of the size of the opportunity in their area. This will enable us to expand the pilot beyond Croydon and into other London boroughs.

During the pilot, as well as locating hosts with spare bedrooms, we signed up two hosts with self-contained properties. We want to explore how the model can adapt to include longer term tenancy agreements.

In April 2018, the Homelessness Reduction Act comes into force; shifting councils’ focus to earlier prevention and more extensive work to support single homeless people.

Our model could potentially be applied to this category of homeless people and also to the victims of domestic abuse and adults with learning difficulties. ShareLab has supported Shared Lives Plus and we believe our platform could increase the pool of potential hosts who then go on to play longer term supportive roles.

Fairbnb will receive £25,000 from the ShareLab Fund.