An estate and letting agency is giving vulnerable care leavers a home alongside education, training and support in an innovative scheme.
South-of-England-based Andrews Property Group is unique in that is owned by two charitable trusts with profits generated by the business paid back into them in the form of a dividend.
The £1 million handed over to Andrews Charitable Trust and Speaking Volumes has been used to fund a housing scheme that aims to purchase 50 homes in 50 years to support youngsters leaving the care system and prevent homelessness in the process.
In the two years it has been running – coinciding with the firm’s 70th anniversary – two homes have already been purchased and refurbished in Bristol and Sutton with a further two soon to be rubberstamped.
In August this year, we announced our largest dividend payment to our charitable shareholders of £1 million, to help supporting ventures that tackle the link between poverty and housing. https://t.co/b2uePlP81E #OpeningDoors pic.twitter.com/6votOSqFqV
— Andrews (@andrewsonline) December 5, 2018
The 15 young people housed so far have been paired up with a local charities CAYSH and 1625 Independent People who have experience of dealing with vulnerable young people. From there, they even have the opportunity to work at Andrews to sharpen their skills as well as training as a mentor for other young people coming into the programme.
In total, more than 92,000 people have sold The Big Issue since 1991 to help themselves work their way out of poverty – more than could fit into Wembley Stadium.
As Andrews Property Group CEO David Westgate explains, the project is in line with founder Cecil Jackson Cole’s community focussed approach. The late entrepreneur and humanitarian was also behind Age UK precursor Help the Aged, Oxfam and Action Aid.
“We have a very strong corporate responsibility message and it is an important challenge for us to ensure that our staff and customers are invested in the social purpose for which we are here. We are starting to get that message across,” he said.
“My dream is not just to house people but to also have them come and work for us as well. We are two years in to this project and we have already had a young person come work for us and didn’t work out unfortunately and they left in under six months. But we were able to give him constructive feedback about how he can grow and develop and he wasn’t going to lose his home.
“The initial objective was to have 50 properties refurbished in 50 years. But we are now challenging that ourselves and there is no reason why we can’t aim higher to build 500 or 5,000 instead.”
According to National Audit Office figures, one third of care leavers became homeless within the first two years of leaving care and 25 per cent of homeless people have been in care at some point in their lives.
That is why there has been a concerted effort by Andrews and others to tackle the problem. MyBnk’s The Money House aims to provide tangible financial education to stop vulnerable youngsters from slipping into rent arrears and other debt issues while the Care Leaver Covenant was launched in October to improve job prospects.
The two homes Andrews have purchased so far have helped youngsters like Kieren Sage, 19, who came out of foster care to move into one of the flats in March.
Since then, he has been receiving support from CAYSH to help him with job applications to start a career as a landscape gardener.
He said: “It can be really hard for someone in my position to develop the personal skills that you need to get on in life but I moved to my foster family two years ago and I didn’t learn anything about benefits or other things I needed to know about like cooking and going to job interviews.
“But moving in here has given me the chance to learn those skills and improve my chances in life.”
Sian Edwards, executive director at Andrews Charitable Trust, added: “We’re a charity with a mission to alleviate poverty and homelessness and with most of our funding coming from Andrews Property Group, it makes sense that we tackle this from a housing perspective.”
Images: Andrews Property Group