Established as a Community Interest Company (CIC) in 2018, Keystage provides support services and housing pathways to vulnerable people, helping them to sustain a housing tenancy and provide a support network. 

Alongside its sister organisation, Keystage Housing, it has helped over 1,400 individuals experiencing or at risk of homelessness in Luton and Bedfordshire to date. Keystage’s work also extends beyond simply providing housing – its experienced team works in close partnership with the local council, support services and charities to create a personalised support network. They take a person-centred, holistic approach, to aid their tenant’s successful reintegration into society.

Providing specialist support

The team at Keystage acknowledge that everyone has their own, often complex, set of needs and recognise that people can experience homelessness for a variety of reasons. With many of the people they support having experienced trauma at some point in their lives, a lot of the work Keystage do is trauma-informed, an approach based on the understanding of the impact trauma can have on an individual’s mental and physical development and wellbeing.

One Keystage project is transforming a derelict piece of land to a delightful courtyard area which residents can enjoy. Patrick, a Keystage resident, is ‘Head Gardener’ and loves tending to the borders and vegetable plot.

“Due to the traumas that often lead to a person becoming homeless, it is easy to understand why mental health issues and homelessness are intrinsically linked,” explains Wendy Barber at Keystage CIC.

“Often, when a person comes to Keystage they have a trauma or mental health need that has been unsupported or undiagnosed. They may have been unwell with mental health for years, and their homelessness exacerbates this. Trauma-informed practice acknowledges the need to see beyond an individual’s presenting behaviours and to ask, ‘what does this person need?’ rather than ‘what is wrong with this person?’”

The organisation also has a highly effective Integrated Offenders Management Programme for those who have just left prison, who otherwise would struggle to find accommodation.

Plans for the future

Keystage CIC has secured a grant to support on the delivery of the Rough Sleeping Accommodation Programme, a government-backed fund which will support up to 6,000 rough sleepers into accommodation where they will be able to access the help they need from specialist teams. Triodos is providing the remaining finance needed for this expansion of Keystage’s property portfolio. The lending has also been used to repay existing finance, which will support Keystage’s sustainable growth and its provision of pathway housing for vulnerable individuals.

A significant focus of Keystage is developing and operating a sustainable strategy as it continues to grow its housing portfolio, ensuring that tenants can benefit from lower energy bills and running costs. Its 14 newest properties will undergo refurbishments to achieve an EPC C rating or above, and some of its properties have already achieved EPC B.

Looking to the future, Keystage CIC is considering applying for further funding to be able to offer more accommodation for vulnerable people, working with neighbouring councils to roll out its work into even more boroughs.