The Big Issue Platform: “Use the skills of retired builders”

Reader John Povey is calling on builders to volunteer and help break the cycle of homelessness

There was a shocking rise in homelessness in 2017 – both rough sleeping and hidden numbers. It’s clear that nobody has a simple and sure-footed means of getting to grips with it, and the underlying poverty and deeper issues that lead to it. However, it’s also clear that many people are trying. There is a focus on homelessness and a desire to break the cycle. We opened up The Big Issue to ideas. The Big Issue Platform is non-partisan and open to politicians, policy-makers, business, third-sector leaders, readers and vendors. Anybody who has an idea that can be part of the solution – send it to us.

Here’s an interesting suggestion to fill empty buildings. All that’s needed is a little goodwill…

“Use the skills of retired builders”: My idea, by reader John Povey

My name is John Povey, I am a retired builder. As many councils have vacant buildings for quite a long period, I propose that it would be possible to use the skills of retired builders to bring about a change to some of these properties to provide a lot of short-term housing. I know most councils have little or no money at this time of year until their next budget is approved around about April, therefore cannot pay contractors the high wages needed to repair these properties, but if the labour was voluntary, could we not get a lot of people into a secure housing project just so they have an address which may allow them to get employment?

I have looked at the factsheet for Housing First and although it pertains to permanent accommodation, what I am proposing is to create a lot of short-term housing. I have been putting out posts on Facebook trying to get other retired builders to volunteer a day or two a month to get behind this idea, and I am in the process of contacting my local council to see if I can put my proposal forward.


Posted by John Povey on Thursday, December 28, 2017

I am trying to convince local councils with unoccupied houses due to much-needed repairs to allow us to go in and do the work free of charge as long as they provide the materials required to do the work. It may need a full kitchen and bathroom refurb and total redecoration, but with enough volunteers it would be a doddle.

I would welcome any advice or the sharing of information that can help push the project forward.

If you have your own idea about how to address the homelessness and housing crisis, get in touch at

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