50 years on from Cathy Come Home and housing associations are needed more than ever

Wandle Chief Executive : Tracey Lees


This November marked the 50th anniversary of Ken Loach’s gritty 1966 drama, Cathy Come Home. The film put British society under the microscope and changed the game forever.

To mark the occasion, Wandle has been hosting film screenings here in our office. The reaction, especially from many younger colleagues who had never seen the film before and are renting in the private sector, was one of disgust but also familiarity.

It is shocking, and a remarkable testament to the work housing associations and others still do, that so many of the film’s scenes still ring true with people today.

Wandle, like many other housing associations and homeless charities, were founded in the years following the film’s first broadcast. Capitalising on the shift in public and political attitudes, we set about creating a society that valued the provision of good quality, affordable homes and supporting those in desperate need.

In 1967, the Merton Family Housing Trust (Wandle’s original name) was formed by a group of local people who were concerned about homelessness and felt that is was possible to do something practical about it. They had a simple aim: to provide homes for homeless families, regardless of colour, language, race, or creed.

As our founding members said back in 1967: “HAVE NO DOUBT – the Merton Family Housing Trust really is needed” – a statement that is as true today as it was then.

50 years on, we face the greatest housing crisis since the end of the Second World War and it is housing associations who are coming together to tackle homelessness.

The Homes for Cathy Group, of which Wandle is proud to be part, is a national alliance of housing associations from across the UK helping to raise awareness of the needs of homeless people. The group will be hosting a series of events across the UK over the coming months, so keep an eye out.

Nowhere is the impact of homelessness more keenly felt than in London and as a south London housing association we want to do our bit to build the homes Londoner’s need. We’ve set out an ambitious plan to build 1,000 new homes by 2021 but we and other housing associations can and will do more, given the right ingredients.

The £3.15bn of funding for affordable housing in London is certainly a good start but, Britain’s housing crisis has been decades in the making and will require a long-term commitment from the Government if we’re going to build the thousands of homes we need and really tackle the growing issue of homelessness.

So, as we begin to wind down for the Christmas break remember: in Britain in 2016, 120,000 children will be homeless on Christmas day.

As was the case in 1967, we’re in the business of building homes, so let’s get on, and give Britain the homes that are so desperately needed.



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