Why we’re supporting Shelter with our Homes for Good campaign

This week we announced SpareRoom’s forthcoming partnership with Shelter and our Homes for Good campaign, committing to raise £75,000 a year for the charity. Why are we doing this?

In the nine years since SpareRoom launched we’ve seen the difficulties people go through to find somewhere to live or someone to share with. As a result we’ve developed a range of information and advice services to help with issues such as taking in a lodger, HMO regulations and Tenancy Deposit Schemes. We also launched our Raise the Roof campaign in 2009 to lobby government for an increase to the Rent a Room Scheme tax threshold. Why? because we believe it’s important for us to engage with the issues that most affect our users.

We want to do more though, so SpareRoom has committed to raising £75,000 this year to help Shelter with their vital work. We’re planning to get there with the help of contributions from our users and staff fundraising efforts, as well as matching your donations with our own contribution to the cause.

Shelter works tirelessly to help people in poor housing or facing homelessness, and this money will go towards keeping their free advice lines open.
The Shelter Helpline is open 365 days a year, from Monday – Friday 8am – 8pm and Saturday and Sunday 8am – 5pm. Your donation of just £1 could pay for one minute of invaluable advice for someone facing homelessness or unsuitable living conditions. You could be helping someone like Ben.

Ben’s story
Ben was a teenager when his parents split up. They moved in with new partners and neither wanted to take responsibility for him. Neither his mum or dad would sign the forms to help Ben access funding to carry on his education – this meant he had no choice but to leave school. He had no job, no money, no home. Aged just seventeen Ben found himself on the streets.

He went to his local council for help and they suggested he stay with friends. For the next seven months Ben did just that – moving from one friend’s sofa to another. All the time he continued to ask the council for help and was told they were investigating his homelessness application.

The day before his 18th birthday, Ben got a letter from the council. The letter told him that he met all the criteria to be found a new home, except ‘priority need’. Priority need applies to the elderly, pregnant women or people with children, those who are vulnerable including physical and mental disabilities and young people still classified as children (under 18s).

Not knowing what to do next and having outstayed his welcome with friends Ben called Shelter’s Helpline. Shelter discussed Ben’s options with him and provided him with a list of local hostels and day centres where he could eat, wash, and change his clothes. They also referred him to their local Advice Centre in London for more in-depth and face-to-face support. They challenged the council’s decision (based on Ben’s age at the time of his application). In the meantime, they referred Ben to the job centre to explore what support he was eligible for. He continued to live, on and off, with friends and on the streets.

Shelter continued to fight on Ben’s behalf and finally, three months later, the Council agreed to find Ben somewhere to live. With Shelter’s help, Ben was finally able to settle down in a safe and secure home from which to start taking positive steps in his life again.

Campaigning for a better private rented sector

Homes for Good isn’t just about raising money – it’s also about raising awareness. By engaging with issues affecting all sides of the private rented sector we hope to generate debate and raise the profile of shared living in the UK. Sharing is more important than ever right now and we want to see that reflected in the way housing policy is formed.

We’re aware Shelter is outspoken in its campaigning and this sometimes causes concern amongst landlords, who see Shelter as anti-landlord. SpareRoom believes that the majority of landlords work hard to provide a good service to their tenants and it’s the minority of bad landlords who need to be dealt with. By engaging with Shelter we aim to address the needs of everyone, landlords and tenants alike and, together, make renting better for everyone.

Shelter charity number England & Wales: 263710 Scotland: SC002327

How to find flatmates to ‘banter’ with

One of the delights with a website as large and complex as SpareRoom is that it’s often our customers who show us interesting ways to use it that we’d never thought of, but that really strike a chord with other users.

Case in point: Map search. It’s been on the site for a while, and once we launched it we didn’t really have much to say about it. It works, showing rooms on a map rather than in a list, so you can make a beeline for ones in the precise area you’re looking in, much more easily. Beyond that we really didn’t think it would rock anyone’s world.

Until @nickw84 tweeted a link to a map search he’d created, which showed a spark of genius. He’s used SpareRoom’s map search to show all the rooms in London which included the term ‘banter’ in the ad, which seem to cluster around South West London. So whether you love a bit of banter between flatmates, or this kind of thing fills you with abject horror, you can quickly identify parts of London to head for or avoid.

Flatshares which include banter in the description

Nick’s tweet went viral yesterday, and appeared in an article about online trends in The Independent this morning. Since then, people have got busy creating flatshare maps of vino drinkers, “LOL” users and those who are anal about cleaning – apparently these are rarer the further north you go. Why not create a flatshare map of your own? Use the advanced search tool on SpareRoom to search by keyword in an area of the UK, and then show results on a map, and share with the world! You never know what insights it may lead to.