23 October 2020

Chris Hildrey’s ProxyAddress initiative – conceived during a residency at the Design Museum three years ago – will run in a south London district for six months this winter.

ProxyAddress was nominated in the Beazley Designs of the Year awards in 2019 and won a RIBA President’s Research Medal back in 2018.

But the pilot was stuck in the development phase for some time, with a launch initially expected last year before talks with partners and then the pandemic pushed it back.

From today anyone approaching Lewisham Council about housing problems will be given the opportunity to take part in the scheme by receiving an address to help them access vital services to get them back on their feet.

Hildrey said: ‘With any scheme like this there are false summits, and we’ve had our fair share. It has gone from me surrounded by papers, looking at stats and policies, to actually being in someone’s hands. It is a huge moment, and if it helps one person it will have all been worthwhile.’

A database of addresses has been collected with explicit consent from property owners such as councils, housing associations, developers and even private doners.

They will be given out to specific individuals to use when applying for bank accounts, registering with surgeries, applying for jobs and other critical activities.

Post can be redirected to a collection point and the process is being overseen by the Financial Conduct Authority to ensure it is secure from fraud.

ProxyAddress is set up to ensure it does not impact the original property’s credit score, value or postal deliveries.

Barclays Bank is also supporting the trial, allowing people to open accounts using their ProxyAddress.

Mayor of Lewisham Damien Egan said: 'I’m really proud that Lewisham will be the first local authority to trial this new service, which will make it much simpler for homeless people to access the services they need to get back on their feet.

‘With the government having ended its ban on evictions, the pilot couldn’t be happening at a more important time and I’m pleased that Lewisham will be leading the way on tackling homelessness and inequality.'

Deputy mayor of London for housing Tom Copley added: '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 rebuilding 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.'

Chris Hancock, head of best practice at Crisis, the national charity for homeless people, said the need for a settled home had ‘never been more important’ in light of the pandemic.

‘While a lot has been achieved in getting people indoors temporarily, we have still some way to go,’ he added.

‘Without a secure address there is little chance for someone to make and sustain the connections they need. If we are to give people the best opportunity to find a home, or a job, they need a reliable point of contact, and that is why Crisis is very happy to support ProxyAddress and work together in the future for the benefit of our members.'

Meanwhile UK-wide research commissioned by ProxyAddress showed one in five people knew at least one person who had been made homeless in the past three years.

A third of respondents indicated they would be willing to consider donating their address to help those in need access support – more than enough to provide a ProxyAddress to every person facing homelessness in the UK today.

Hildrey said: ‘The findings of our study clearly show that ProxyAddress is a viable strategy to create positive early intervention and with this pilot we have taken our first steps to making that lifeline more easily accessible for everyone.’

Source:  Architects' Journal