Housing

The Big Issue's Top 100 Changemakers 2019: Housing

Welcome to The Big Issue's Changemakers Top 100: celebrating the thinkers, creators and agitators. Here's our rundown of individuals and organisations in the housing sector that are striving for a better world in 2019

Susan Aktemel, Homes For Good

Aktemel spent 20 years leading charity Impact Arts, which she set up to drive social change through creativity and artistic expression. But in 2013, she felt pulled in a new direction – or rather pushed, by poor experiences with letting agents as a private landlord.

The decision to manage her own portfolio of property morphed into Homes For Good, a social enterprise letting agent. Aktemel was determined to be the antithesis of every grievance she’d felt as a landlord so puts a focus on building relationships and putting in place reliable guarantees to make the process smoother for all involved.

Homes For Good owns around 200 of the 400 homes currently on its portfolio, and 90 per cent of those are let exclusively to people on housing benefits or low income.

The organisation’s duties are doubled – those expected of a property company, plus providing support to those who need help into housing. She has raised £8.5m and counting in social investments for Homes For Good, which will continue to defy stereotypes this year as a charitable letting agent.

homesforgood.org.uk

Katharine Hibbert, Dot Dot Dot

It was revealed this month that 1.2 million households in the UK don’t qualify for council houses but at the same time people aren’t able to get on the property ladder. As a result, they are trapped in costly rents Meanwhile many properties lie empty in towns and cities across the country. What can be done?

In 2011, Hibbert started Dot Dot Dot, which turns struggling renters into property guardians, providing them with high-quality housing that would otherwise sit empty for a cut rate, while also giving owners peace of mind.

Part of the deal requires guardians to volunteer for 16 hours a month at a local charity so that neighbours and the community also benefit from the arrangement. Dot Dot Dot is continuing to be a huge success, giving people from all walks of life a place in communities. 

dotdotdotproperty.com

Grenfell United

Grenfell United is a group of survivors and bereaved families whose lives were changed forever on June 14, 2017. Following the fire that left 72 people dead and many more grieving, displaced and devastated, the group came together out of solidarity – but also to make sure that true change really does happen as a result of the failings that lead to the fire at Grenfell Tower.

They aim to get justice for the 72 lives lost – ensuring the community is heard and listened to at inquiries and by local and national politicians. They are also advocating for safe homes for everyone, so that the dangerous materials that exacerbated the fire at Grenfell are removed from all blocks and that fire safety ranks higher than low costs when it comes to building regulation. They’re also pushing for a change in culture so that residents of buildings are heard and actions taken, meaning it doesn’t take further tragedy to effect change. The group is also working to create a fitting memorial.

With the Grenfell inquiry on hold for a year, the group are continuing to fight for more and better social housing with more and better oversight. Survivor Ed Daffarn, who lived in Grenfell Tower for 20 years, recently said: “We can see so many similarities between the banking industry, which was unregulated and had a crash, and a housing sector that had Grenfell. Regulating housing should be 50 times more important that regulating banks.” 

grenfellunited.org

Sarah Lamptey, ShowerBox

The ability to clean, to wash the day off yourself, is something many of us are likely to take for granted. Not radio presenter Lamptey.

With a history of volunteering with homelessness charities Shelter and Crisis, she learned how much of an impact a lack of access to shower facilities can have on disease and on self-esteem. It pushed her to launch ShowerBox, her own initiative to help homeless people stay clean and safe even if they can’t access a day centre.

fareshare_person_pasta_0774
Sarah Lamptey of ShowerBox

She says: “[Being clean] is such a restorative force. Having a shower, even washing just a couple of days of grime off you, can impact you mentally and change how you feel about yourself. And it’s been shown that you make better choices when you feel good about yourself.”

And over Christmas, she did it. Crowdfunded money allowed her to buy a trailer and fix it up before it serviced a shelter on Tottenham Court Road over the festive period. Its next stop is at a Street’s Kitchen shelter in Hornsey, set to run for a few months, providing just a little relief for London’s homeless population while Sarah gets set to fundraise for the next ShowerBox.

justgiving.com/crowfunding/showerbox

Community Campus 87

Can we build our way out of the UK’s crippling housing crisis? Teeside-based Community Campus 87 is running with that ethos by training people with experiences of homelessness and unemployment in building skills, offering them apprenticeships, paid work, and helping them to restore and revitalise empty properties to bring them back to life.

Community Campus 87  have forged a vital and active project where they employ 15 per cent of staff as apprentices, who have now refurbished around 250 homes – with more on the cards – while offering help with job interviews, Jobcentre appointments and helping people find courses at local colleges.

communitycampus87.com

Phases

The Big Issue’s own Fill ‘Em Up campaign shone a light on the wealth of empty buildings across the UK that could be used to not just provide homes but revitalise communities. Like Community Campus 87, The Big Issue Invest-backed Phases social enterprise is connecting the construction industry with homelessness, training people who have experienced homelessness with the skills to turn empty properties into much-needed homes.

phases.org.uk

New Horizon Youth Centre

This day centre in Somers Town, London, supports 2,500 16- to 21-year-olds with urgent housing needs via referrals to hostels, shelters or other accommodation each year. It gives young people food, shelter, showers and laundry facilities, counselling, help with benefit problems and appeals over sanctions, art and skills workshops, health programmes and helps them into employment education and training.

But they’ve taken their work one step further after witnessing the decline in accommodation for the young people they see each day, teaming up with Network Homes on Project Vista for 2019.

The project provides affordable accommodation for 20 young people who would not have been catered for in the current housing system. Housed in four flats, they’re offered a stable place to live to while they work on employability and independent living skills, work or education to prevent them becoming homeless again in the future, and becoming self-sufficient.

nhyouthcentre.org.uk

Settle

According to Settle’s own figures, 62 per cent of under-25s become homeless because of a relationship breakdown, usually with their parents. That leaves them without the advice and support of a family unit which is an immeasurably valuable part of the moving-out process. To be a first-time tenant without that can create a world of difficulties and challenges.

That’s why a huge part of what the social enterprise, founded by Rich Grahame and Katie Slee, does is to support London’s 16 to 25-year-olds moving into their first home and trying to hold down their first tenancy.

The programme is made up of six weekly one-hour sessions, targeting the skills necessary for a transition to independence. That includes basics like budgeting and healthy cooking, as well as weightier subjects .

So far, 100 per cent of participants involved with the social enterprise have sustained their tenancies or made a positive move, with nine out of 10 participants agreeing that they felt well prepared for independent living. The organisation recently secured funding to scale the programme right across London and is set to double its reach in the coming months.

wearesettle.org

Read the full article in this week's Big Issue.
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