Housing the homeless

CCB

 

Posted in: Analysis/Comment, Community, Speaking Out

Housing the homeless

August 01, 1998

EXECUTIVE FORUM

Bradford & Bingley, NatWest, the F.I. Group, Publicis, and Bain & Company are among companies joining a new Executive Forum with leading voluntary organisations to increase business support to the homeless. Set up by CRASH, the construction industry’s charity for single homeless people, and BITC, first year activities were announced on July 7, including raising awareness, through workshops and seminars and ‘seeing is believing’ visits for business leaders. Bain & Company is conducting research into how business can maximise its impact, while the advertising agency, Publicis, is developing a marketing campaign. Contact Eva Hamilton, BITC, on 0171 224 1600

SOCIAL EXCLUSION UNIT REPORT

The second report of the prime minister’s social exclusion unit, published on July 7, addressed the problem of homelessness. Setting a target to reduce the numbers of rough sleepers by two thirds over the next three years, it called on business to make a commitment to help. Among help promised is funding to train mentors who support homeless people in trying to get back into work. In London where the problem is most acute, a new body will take over all rough sleepers spending programmes and spearhead liaison with business.

The report was welcomed by the Foyer Federation which held its national conference on July 14, supported by Diageo and The Observer. The chief executive, Carolyn Hayman, praised the holistic approach, focusing on prevention. Currently 68 foyers are fully operational, with another 29 due to open within a year. Contact SEU on 0171 270 5253 and Foyer Federation on 0171 222 2121

CRISIS CHALLENGE

One hundred and fifty marketing managers and directors from Whitbread took part in a one-day ‘challenge’ on June 8, organised by Crisis, the charity for single homeless people. Six teams helped to revamp London projects for homeless people, building clothing stores and carrying out other renovations. Contact Angie Turner, Crisis, on 0171 377 0489

RESOURCEFUL TENANTS

Britannia Building Society has funded the Neighbourhood Initiatives Foundation to produce new training materials for tenants. Launched at the National Tenants Resource Centre on June 17, the materials include ‘planning for real’ models which allow local people to determine their own ideas for estate redevelopments. Contact Louis Mullinger, Britannia, on 01538 399399

Comment

What is the right corporate response to the nation’s growing housing crisis? Some central London companies with the problem literally on their door steps have got seriously involved, as has the construction industry. Others have supported the foyer movement directly or by providing work experience, guaranteed job interviews and mentors.

But this risks only tackling the highly visible tip of the iceberg – rough sleeping. The more intractable problem is the steady decay of `sink’ estates, home to communities suffering multiple deprivation.

The danger of the social exclusion unit’s report and the new Executive Forum is that the symptom (rough sleeping) is treated, not the root illness (lack of affordable, decent housing in the right place). Two of the main causes of the social housing crisis are lack of capital investment and dire estate management, both exacerbated by poor design and construction. Only specialist finance companies can help the former, but on management everyone can help, whether it is offering volunteers to sit on tenant co-op committees, training housing managers, or focusing local social and employment projects onto the big estates.

The social exclusion unit’s next report is expected to tackle this issue, the so-called `worst estates’. As well as achieving a coordinated approach across government, it must articulate the practical ways companies can get involved.

Corporate Citizenship Briefing, issue no: 41 – August, 1998

COMMENT:

What is the right corporate response to the nation’s growing housing crisis?

What is the right corporate response to the nation’s growing housing crisis? Some central London companies with the problem literally on their door steps have got seriously involved, as has the construction industry. Others have supported the foyer movement directly or by providing work experience, guaranteed job interviews and mentors.

But this risks only tackling the highly visible tip of the iceberg – rough sleeping. The more intractable problem is the steady decay of `sink’ estates, home to communities suffering multiple deprivation.

The danger of the social exclusion unit’s report and the new Executive Forum is that the symptom (rough sleeping) is treated, not the root illness (lack of affordable, decent housing in the right place). Two of the main causes of the social housing crisis are lack of capital investment and dire estate management, both exacerbated by poor design and construction. Only specialist finance companies can help the former, but on management everyone can help, whether it is offering volunteers to sit on tenant co-op committees, training housing managers, or focusing local social and employment projects onto the big estates.

The social exclusion unit’s next report is expected to tackle this issue, the so-called `worst estates’. As well as achieving a coordinated approach across government, it must articulate the practical ways companies can get involved.

COMMENTS