A trial that allows people facing homelessness to ‘borrow’ an address to ensure they don’t lose access to vital services launched in Lewisham today (October 22).   

ProxyAddress is a service that uses empty or unused addresses, with the permission of the owner, and links them with people who have no permanent home. 

Losing an address can mean losing access to a bank account, can leave people unable to apply for jobs, to access benefits, receive post, or register with a GP. 

The aim is to stop people being severed from support the moment they lose their homes, allowing them to “access services, get identification, build financial history, and avoid stigma”.  

It is hoped that by doing this at an early stage, it helps avoid entrenchment and ease recovery. 

Lewisham is the first borough in the country to trial ProxyAddress.  

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, more than one in 20 people believe they are likely to face homelessness within six months – this rises to one in ten for under 35s. 

Developed by British architect Chris Hildrey, the scheme aims to reduce post-Covid costs to councils – Lewisham already has a £20 million black hole in its finances from covering the cost of the pandemic and expects to make millions in cuts over the next few years.  

There are nearly a quarter of a million long-term vacant homes in England.  

According to the organisation, ProxyAddresses are provided with “explicit consent” from property owners – including councils, housing associations, housing developers, and private donations, without impacting the original property’s credit score, value, or postal deliveries. 

Mail addressed to a person at their ProxyAddress can be redirected to a collection point of their choosing. 

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

Andrew, who was a lodger before being evicted by his landlord because of the pandemic, said not having an address is like “being invisible”.  

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.” 

According to the creator, the system “requires the highest levels of security and safety” and the pilot “will seek to establish ProxyAddress’ compliance with anti-fraud regulations”.   

Founder Mr Hildrey said the Government’s action to get all rough sleepers off the street during lockdown was a “silver lining to a tragic situation” but said those facing homelessness still face 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.  

“With the end of the furlough scheme approaching, now, more than ever, we have a duty to provide a lifeline to those most in need,” he said. 

Lewisham mayor 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.”