Housing First initiative helps homeless Zoe look to the future

For Zoe Kellett, a pilot to reduce homelessness through a partnership between local housing association Aster Group, homeless charity Two Saints and Test Valley Borough Council is proving to be life changing. With her first Aster home provided through the Housing First initiative, Zoe, 43, from Andover, who has struggled with substance abuse and homelessness for over 28 years, has been able to rebuild her life, with support from staff at both Aster and Two Saints.

Housing First provides people who have experienced homelessness with a stable home to help rebuild their lives. The partnership was able to provide Zoe with her own home after four years living in Andover-based homeless hostel, Dene Court.

Aster supports projects like Housing First in its  local communities as part of its work to improve life chances and opportunities of its customers. Under the Aster Foundation, it works with customers to help improve their financial wellbeing, finding employment, learning new skills through digital college support, tackling fuel poverty and finding opportunities to volunteer to enhance experiences.

For Zoe, who has now been free from substance abuse for over two years, the opportunity to make a fresh start has given her the chance to rebuild family relationships, including with her daughter, Leah, 22, who now visits regularly.

“I wanted my daughter to have opportunities - to be able to live her life without anything holding her back. I want the best for her, and this chance has brought us together.”

With the help of, Cancer Research UK (CRUK), Aster is also able to help Housing First tenants with new home starter kits enabling them to make the first steps to setting up and furnishing their own home. In return for a donation from Aster, CRUK provides soft furnishings, utensils and other goods which Aster then donates to its customers.

Keen poet, Zoe is now working towards helping young adults experiencing the challenges she faced.

“Everyone deserves a chance and I cannot thank Aster, Nick Pope, my neighbourhood officer and Jenna Valence, my support worker with Two Saints at the time, enough. This has given me my independence, freedom and the knowledge that I have a future. Life for me is amazing right now.

“My neighbours are fantastic and being able to open your own front door is like walking into heaven.”

Through Housing First, Aster has been able to provide homes to seven vulnerable people in Hampshire and Somerset with plans to extend the initiative.

Rebecca Outram, Head of housing at Aster said: “Here at Aster, we believe everyone should have a home and working with our partners, Test Valley Borough Council and Two Saints, Housing First really is helping change people’s lives. It’s brilliant to see the positive difference it’s making.  We wish Zoe all the best for the future and hope she continues to be happy in her home.”

Portfolio holder for housing and environmental health, councillor Phil Bundy, said: “This just goes to show the power of agencies working together and really believing in people. We must never underestimate the impact we can have and the changes we can make to people’s lives by supporting them and helping them to find a home. Zoe is a shining example of this and I wish her all the very best for the future.”

Two Saints regional director James McDermott said, “The Housing First model works when key partners work together to give clients the opportunity to have a home of their own with support. The positive impact this has had on Zoë’s life is fantastic to see and we wish her all the best in her home and her aspirations for the future”.

Watch this short video of Zoe telling her story:

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