A rough sleeping and housing charity in Elmbridge have opened a lettings agency in Walton especially designed to help homeless people into rented accommodation.

Housing and rough sleeping support charity Rentstart announced the opening of their new "hub" on Walton High Street on Friday (July 31).

They said it will welcome those experiencing homelessness in a way most every other lettings agents do not, and help find them accommodation and stability in an area known for its high rent prices.

"The High Street Hub with its highly visible shopfront will be a town centre lettings agency with one big difference - a prominent, accessible space in the beating heart of the town and the community that welcomes homeless people through its open doors and allows them entry to the private rented sector with dignity and without the stigma of needing support to gain access to a home," a spokesperson for the charity said.

Amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, appointments while available to everyone will be necessary in order to visit to minimize any potential risk of spreading the virus.

They can be made via the Rentstart website, a spokesperson said.

The charity say they currently work with around 130 bed spaces in the borough but hope to "increase the number of beds available to meet the demand from clients using the new High Street Hub."

The new high street building offers "a large warm open area at the front and then a number of discreet rooms and areas for advice and assistance," the spokesperson said.

Surrey Comet: Rentstart's new 'Hub' on Walton High StreetRentstart's new 'Hub' on Walton High Street

Amid the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, the number of homeless people in the UK is expected to rise again amid hundreds of thousands of job losses.

The figures relating to rough sleeping, which have been rising since 2010, were drastically reduced after emergency government measures to house the homeless were brought in during the previous peak of the pandemic.

They were since cancelled as the number of coronavirus cases declined.

Rentstart, who started taking on bed spaces four years ago, did so amid a shortage of affordable housing in the area.

Since then the charity say the relationships they have built with landlords have allowed them to accommodate rough sleepers and so secure a degree of housing security for clients.

Landlord, Mike Lipton of A&L Lipton Ltd, offered his support at the opening of the new "hub":

"Rentstart's move to the high street is a game-changer in helping house vulnerable and homeless people, and I wish them every success," he said.

"I am proud to be working with Rentstart for the last seven years. They look after 13 of my 15 flats and bedsits and I can't wait for them to have the other two," Lipton added.

The charity's CEO Helen Watson also reinforced the strength of the relationship between the charity and property owners as a pillar of their success:

"Landlords have come to know and trust us," she said.

"We act as landlord to our clients, guarantee the rent, provide deposits and support our tenants.

"Landlords know that their properties are well-managed and that we will ensure that the tenancies run smoothly," she added.