After witnessing adults returning to his association’s temporary accommodation scheme who had lived there as children, Tony Stacey calls on the sector to address poverty and homelessness
I have worked as South Yorkshire Housing Association’s (SYHA) chief executive for 23 years now. For the whole time – in fact since it was founded 45 years ago – SYHA has focused on addressing homelessness. Other things too, but homelessness has always been high up on our radar.
“I like to think I am pretty well in touch with the situation locally. But nothing prepared me for this.”
Last week, I was told by our LiveWell support team that we are now regularly seeing new customers for two of our temporary accommodation schemes in Sheffield – used by the council as an alternative to B&B referrals – who had lived there as children.
The accommodation is a good standard – in fact when Jon Rouse led the Homes and Communities Agency, he described one of our projects as the best designed scheme he had visited that year. Nevertheless, we now find ourselves managing an across-the-generations revolving door. And I am not talking about one or two families, this is now a regular occurrence.
Our response to this, for me, reinforces our answer to the SYHA ‘why?’ question, which is: “With SYHA you can settle at home live well and realise your potential.” Think whole person, think whole place. And we do.
I hear a lot about how associations are sweating their assets, but less about how they stretch themselves to offer choices to customers which can get them out of poverty and break this vicious cycle. Shouldn’t our stretch extend to addressing homelessness and poverty?
We have just had our Regulator of Social Housing in-depth assessment. The conclusion was: “Goodness, you people are really going for it.”
One of many things housing associations, GP practices and NHS Trusts have in common is that we’re rooted in the communities worst affected by health-related unemployment. We work in them, get sick and get better in them, and raise our families there. Achieving fairness in employment outcomes for people with physical and mental health conditions is therefore our fight too.
A good job is a healthy outcome. The healthier we are, the more resilient we are. The more resilient we are, the less we are likely to slide into homelessness.
Tony Stacey, chief executive, South Yorkshire Housing Association
This blog was first published on Inside Housing on 14/6/18