The affluent town of Walton-on-Thames in Surrey is probably the last place you would expect to find a lettings agency for homeless people. But on the corner of the high street stands RentStart, on the site of a former bank and estate agents, its shop window looking into a light-flooded space with high ceilings and modern, funky furniture.
Before its completion in July curious passersby knocked on the door to ask “are you opening a new bar?”, says RentStart chief executive Helen Watson.
Her decision for the charity to open what is thought to be the first lettings agency in the UK exclusively for homeless people was rooted in visibility, dignity and the removal of shame. “I thought ‘why don’t we seize the high street back for us? And why don’t we make our clients have the best experience? We’re making a stand about it, saying ‘come in’, removing the stigma and being proud of who we are.”