ProxyAddress gives stable addresses to UK homeless in ground-breaking trial as more than 1 in 20 think homelessness likely within six months
• ProxyAddress fixes the catch-22 of losing a permanent address by allowing those facing homelessness to “borrow” an existing address so they can access vital services
• This radical new intervention will help to reduce the post-Covid cost to councils currently estimated to be £117m on top of the £1.1bn spent annually on homelessnessi
• Findings of new research by ProxyAddress suggest more than 1 in 20 think homelessness likely within six months, rising to more than 1 in 10 for under-35s
• ProxyAddress is partnered with organisations including Lewisham Council, Barclays, Monzo, Monese, Crisis, The Big Issue, Ordnance Survey, Amiqus, and Action on Empty Homes
Developed by British architect Chris Hildrey, ProxyAddress announces the start of its pilot in the London borough of Lewisham today. The service uses the duplicated address details of existing homes to provide those facing homelessness with a consistent, secure, and free address which they can use to access the support they need.
Losing your home means losing your address. But in 21st century Britain, an address is not just a location – it’s a de facto form of ID; without one, people experiencing homelessness can be prevented from accessing vital services like maintaining or opening a bank account, applying for a job or a driving licence, accessing benefits, receiving post, or even registering with a GPii.
Chris Hildrey, founder of ProxyAddress, said: ‘Nobody should be left alone or without recourse to help in times of need. The action already taken to help rough sleepers during the Covid-19 pandemic is a silver lining to a tragic situation but there remains a systemic barrier to helping those facing all types of homelessness: instability. Until stable housing and wrap-around support is available for all we need to find innovative ways to help those trapped in precarious situations. Now, more than ever, we have a duty to provide a lifeline to those most in need.'
ProxyAddresses are provided with explicit consent from property owners - including councils, housing associations, housing developers, private donations, and some of the 225,000 long-term vacant homes in Englandiii - without impacting the original property’s credit score, value, or postal deliveries.
Just like the 800,000 letters sent in the UK each year to Santa’s Grotto in Reindeerland - which ultimately go to a sorting office in Belfastiv – for post, the ProxyAddress serves only as a routing instruction rather than a final destination. Mail addressed to a person at their ProxyAddress can be redirected to a collection point of their choosing, ensuring their details - and ability to access support - stay the same throughout the recovery journey, no matter how often they move.
Andrew was a lodger before being evicted by his landlord as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. He said, 'When the lockdown started my landlord got nervous so told me to leave. I was a lodger so the eviction ban didn't do anything. I've been homeless before but I thought I'd finally got back on my feet. I don't have anyone else so not having an address is like being invisible - I'm not recognised by the places I need to go. The staff don't know what to do with you. You're just trying to get help and being told 'not without an address'. This ProxyAddress idea is great - it'll help so many people like me. Just having something to put my name to - even if it's not a real place - that feels like a step in the right direction.'
New UK-wide research commissioned by ProxyAddress into the public’s views, perception, and experiences of homelessness expose the scope and impact of this problem across the country. 20 per cent of people know at least one person who has been made homeless in the past three years, and almost 50 per cent say that little or almost nothing is being done to prevent it. Furthermore, more than one in twenty think it is likely that they will be made homeless within six months, rising to more than 1 in 10 for under-35sv.
Three quarters of those asked were supportive of the ProxyAddress initiative with a third willing to consider donating their own address to help those in need to access support – more than enough to provide a ProxyAddress to every person facing homelessness in the UK today.
Chris Hildrey continued, ‘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.'
The economic impact of COVID-19 has placed over half a million households into rent arrearsvvi and an estimated 45,000 households are expected to be pushed into homelessness as a resultvii. This will require an estimated £117m of additional spend on homelessness services by local councils on top of the £1.1bn spent in 2019-20viii. With ProxyAddress, local authorities can use the system to employ existing resources for positive intervention, helping more people to get back on their feet and reducing their financial burden.
This innovative system requires the highest levels of security and safety. As such, the pilot will seek to establish ProxyAddress’ compliance with anti-fraud regulations by opening bank accounts using a ProxyAddress in place of a proof of address as part of the Financial Conduct Authority’s regulatory sandbox. By meeting the requirements of such rigorous compliance processes, this pilot is the first step towards further systemic change.
Tom Copley, Deputy Mayor of London for Housing and Residential Development said, '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.'
Damien Egan, Mayor of Lewisham 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 their 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.'
Gillean Dooney, Managing Director at Barclays said, ‘‘We know that people experiencing homelessness struggle with financial exclusion when they are without the necessary identification documents required to open a bank account. We are delighted to be working with ProxyAddress to try and tackle this issue and find a solution which provides access to financial services to people facing homelessness. Across Barclays we are dedicated to supporting people in the communities where we live and work and providing access to essential banking services is a key part of this commitment.'
Chris Hancock, Head of Best Practice at Crisis said, 'In the last few months we have seen how the need for a settled home has never been more important. Whilst a lot has been achieved in getting people indoors temporarily, we have still some way to go. 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 are very happy to support ProxyAddress and work together in the future for the benefit of our members.'
• Press contact: Sarah Harrison
• Email: email@example.com
• Direct phone: +44 (0)7768372892
• Website: www.proxyaddress.co.uk
• Twitter: @chrishildrey, @proxyaddress
• Hashtag: #proxyaddress
• Chris Hildrey, founder of ProxyAddress, is available for interview.
• A range of images and video assets can be downloaded from our Press Kit here.
• The full Addressing Homelessness Survey can be downloaded here.
• ProxyAddress will be undertaking its pilot as part of the FCA’s regulatory sandbox. The regulatory sandbox allows firms to test innovative offerings in a live environment. This pilot will test the ProxyAddress system’s compliance with AML, KYC, and CFT regulations. More information on the FCA’s regulatory sandbox can be found here: https://www.fca.org.uk/firms/innovation/regulatory-sandbox
• ProxyAddress is registered with the ICO in compliance with the UK Data Protection Act 2018 and is certified Cyber Essentials and GDPR certified under the IASME Governance standard
• ProxyAddress was first imagined in 2017 by Chris Hildrey, an award-winning architect, while a Designer in Residence at the Design Museum. Working directly with those experiencing homelessness, Chris made his idea a reality – founding the social enterprise in 2018.
• Since 2018 ProxyAddress has been awarded the Royal Institute of British Architects’ President’s Medal for Research, a D&AD Impact Award for Humanitarian Aid, and an InnovateUK grant in support of its impact on the emerging and increasing needs of society during and following the pandemic.
• It has been named one of Wired's '18 things that made the world a better place’, one of the Beazley Designs of the Year 2019, a Big Issue Changemaker 2020, and an honouree of Fast Company’s Innovation by Design Awards for Social Good 2020.
• ProxyAddress has succeeded in bringing together a large number of collaborative partners, including Crisis, The Big Issue, Barclays, Monzo, Monese, Lewisham Council, Amiqus, Action on Empty Homes, 999 Club, HM Land Registry, and Ordnance Survey. It has also received support from InnovateUK, the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, the Royal Society of Arts, and Arts Council England.