Cardboard Citizens present #Citizens Do

Award-winning theatre company Cardboard Citizens has today announced Citizens Do, a grass-roots movement which aims to engage and empower everyday citizens to help tackle homelessness. The campaign has been gaining momentum over the past three months as Cardboard Citizens toured the UK with Cathy, working with audience members to collate suggestions on how the public can help people with experience of homelessness.

Inspired by Ken Loach and Jeremy Sandford’s ground-breaking film Cathy Come Home, Ali Taylor’s Cathy continued Cardboard Citizens’ exploration of the state of housing and homelessness. Based on true stories, the timely drama explored the impact of spiralling social housing costs, gentrification and the challenges of forced relocation through the compelling story of one family. Following each performance the cast discussed the issues raised in the play with audience members, asking for suggestions on how the general public could be empowered to make a difference and tackle homelessness.

During the three month tour, audience members were asked for their own ideas about how they can help the homeless. Over 1000 people so far have signed up for the movement and Cardboard Citizens is now calling on the general public to sign up by Wednesday 23 May at www.citizensdo.com or share their actions using #CitizensDo.

Adrian Jackson, Cardboard Citizens’ Artistic Director added: “After the grandeur of the House of Lords last year, we are excited to live up to our name and try seeing what we mere citizens can do to make the world a better place. It’s an exciting experiment in using theatre to mobilise people.”

 

Citizens Do square

 

 

 

Housing associations must be part of the solution on homelessness

Councils and charities frequently see housing associations as part of the problem when tackling homelessness and this must change, says David Bogle

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The Homes for Cathy group of 71 housing associations has been working closely with the housing charity, Crisis, building up to the Homes for Cathy national conference on Monday, 30 April in London. Crisis is working on its Plan to End Homelessness and this will be previewed at the Homes for Cathy conference.There have been several joint workshops with Crisis and Homes for Cathy housing associations that are feeding into the Crisis plan, and eventually into a Homes for Cathy housing association plan or charter.

“Factors have combined to make housing associations more cautious and more inclined to introduce detailed pre-tenancy and affordability checks.”

However, the feedback from Crisis staff and case workers is that housing associations are frequently seen by local authorities and housing charities as being part of the problem when it comes to tackling homelessness locally; that housing associations are erecting barriers which sometimes prevent homeless families and homeless people being housed and sustaining a tenancy.
Perhaps rent cuts, benefit cuts, universal credit, housing support cuts, court delays and other factors have combined to make housing associations more cautious and more inclined to introduce detailed pre-tenancy and affordability checks.
But many housing associations were originally set up to house homeless people or poorly housed people and in response to previous housing crises.
As charities with the resources to house homeless people, we have to be working with the local authorities, who have the statutory responsibilities, and the local housing charities. We must be playing our part.
So what practical steps can housing associations take? Housing associations are already providing homes (temporary and permanent) and support for homeless people and clearly, in the medium and long term, there is the need to build more homes at rents that people can afford. But are there any short-term solutions that housing associations may offer to hard-pressed local authorities which have the Homelessness Reduction Actto implement? Can we purchase homes for shared housing? Can we set up social lettings agencies? Can we provide modular homes on any unused land? And can local authorities put aside some of the money they are spending on temporary accommodation to support such initiatives? Can health or crime budgets be used to provide even temporary support for homeless people if homes can be made available?

“The rising homelessness numbers are a national disgrace”

The Homes for Cathy group has argued that housing associations should be collecting and using information on, for instance, their lettings to homeless people and their evictions, to try to improve their practices and to examine whether safeguards and mitigations can be put in place to allow them to house and support more homeless people – perhaps with help from other agencies. As many people have observed, the rising homelessness numbers are a national disgrace and a personal disaster for those affected.
The government has made a commitment to halving rough sleeping numbers by 2022 and ending rough sleeping by 2027 and we wait to see what resources will be put behind this commitment.
But housing associations have to step up to the plate. This is about our social purpose. We all must examine what we are doing and do everything we can to increase our contribution.
Housing associations have to be seen as part of the solution to this national crisis not part of the problem.
David Bogle, Chief Executive, Hightown Housing Association

 

Housing associations should be judged on what they do for homeless, disabled and vulnerable people.

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David Bogle, Chief Executive, Hightown Housing Association

The Homes for Cathy group represents more than 50 housing associations that are gravely concerned about the numbers of homeless people in Britain today and are campaigning for more resources to be devoted to reducing these numbers and supporting those who are homeless.

We have been working on a Homes for Cathy action plan or statement of intent and have welcomed the opportunity to work with Crisis as it consults on its ‘plan to end homelessness’.

Homelessness places huge strains on our local and national public services. Shelter has recently estimated that 307,000 people are sleeping rough or in temporary accommodation in Britain – a rise of 13,000 in one year.

The Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) is tasked with ensuring that “value for money is obtained from public investment in social housing”.

So in the Homes for Cathy group’s response to the HCA consultation on the Value For Money Standard, we argue that this duty should include measuring the contribution of housing associations to reducing the burden on local government, the NHS, the police and other public services and, in particular, to alleviating the plight of homeless people.

Because social value and social return on investment are more difficult to measure, it is tempting for value for money to be defined in terms of purely financial metrics, with no account taken of the level of services provided or of the type and tenure of the housing delivered.

“The current Value for Money Standard does not place sufficient emphasis on the duty of housing associations to house and support homeless people.”

The Homes for Cathy group has been concerned that the current Value for Money Standard does not place sufficient emphasis on the duty of housing associations to house and support homeless people who do not have the resources to resolve their housing problems through the private rented sector or through homeownership options including shared ownership.

The HCA consultation on the Value for Money Standard, the Chartered Institute of Housing’s ‘Rethinking Social Housing’ project and the consultation on the forthcoming Social Housing Green Paper are welcome opportunities to review the role of housing associations.

All the indications are that we now have a government that appreciates the huge contribution housing associations can and do make – not only to the national housebuilding programme but also to sustaining local communities and reducing the burden on public services.

So let us look beyond the financial metrics and see value for money in a wider context. Let us work with the regulator to develop standards that measure the social impact of the work of housing associations and the social return on the funding we receive directly or indirectly from government.

“Let us look beyond the financial metrics and see value for money in a wider context.”

It can be done. Last year, Hightown commissioned consultancy RSM to produce a social impact report using a European Commission-approved ‘principles for impact’ measurement to demonstrate the savings to the public sector (the NHS, the police, local government) from our homelessness services in St Albans.

Housing associations can collect statistics on the number of homeless families and homeless people who are housed each year. We can even collect figures for the number of evictions we carry out.

As housing associations, we should be judged primarily by what we do for people who are vulnerable, homeless or disabled. Let us try to measure those outcomes.

 

HA founders return to mark Cathy Come Home 50th

Two founders of Shepherds Bush Housing Group, with 170 years between them, returned to where they started the group, to mark the 50th anniversary of Cathy Come Home

Shepherds Bush Housing Group welcomed back two of its founding members as part of a series of events for Homes for Cathy.

The Rev John Asbridge, aged 90, former vicar of St Stephen’s Church in Shepherds Bush and his curate Wilfrid Wood, aged 80, who went on to become Britain’s first black bishop, were guests at an event to look at homelessness in 2016.

SBHG chief executive, Paul Doe, said: “It was a pleasure to see so many people who care about homelessness and who want to make a difference.

“It was a particularly pleasure to see John and Wilfred back where SBHG began almost 50 years ago. Both have kept the passion they had for making a difference in the world.”

The event at St Stephen’s Church included a Q&A and panel discussion on homelessness in 2016. The panel was made up of:

Andy Slaughter MP for Hammersmith and Shadow Minister for Housing and London
Cllr Stephen Cowan – leader of Hammersmith & Fulham Council
Alison Mohammed – director of services at Shelter

Andy Slaughter said: “Almost all the indicators are showing a real growth in homelessness. Homelessness if not just street homelessness but it is about hidden homelessness.

“It’s about people who are living in entirely unsuitable conditions. Homelessness is on the increase but it’s on the agenda again thanks in part to the film’s anniversary and the newly published Homeless Reduction Bill.

“You can pass laws, you can give local authorities new duties but if you’re not actually resolving the supply crisis, then you are really putting on a sticking plaster.”

Alison Mohammed said: “Things have changed a great deal from 1966 but the human story remains the same. The slums have been cleared, we now have a legal safety net…but the shortage of social housing and insecurity in the private rented sector and unregulated private rents and inadequate benefits for social and private tenants mean the situation is still pretty bad.”

Cllr Steve Cowan talked of the need for genuinely affordable housing and paid tribute to the founders of the SBHG and said that homelessness was intolerable in 2016.

He said: “Everything we have inherited, we inherited because someone went out and fought for it. They built what they thought would be a better world.”

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

Wandle Chief Executive : Tracey Lees

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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.