Andrew Shaw writes for #HousingDay on why he is a #proudtenant
My name is Andrew and I come from a town called Widnes, in the Borough of Halton in the North West. My town is industrial with mainly chemical industries which never appealed to me.
So as soon as I left school, I joined the army to learn a trade and travel. I had lived in social housing since the age of five when my parents divorced; I lived with my mum and older brother.
I joined the army as a junior leader in The Royal Armoured Corps based at Bovington in Dorset. After this for a year I went to Catterick in North Yorkshire to train as a tank driver. I then went to join my Regiment 5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards in Paderborn, Germany. Our role was to stall any invasion by the Soviet Union for as long as we could. I also passed courses to take on different tank roles like gunnery and role of the signaller/loader.
I sustained an injury from an accident in army service. The damage sustained to my neck and back took nearly a year for recovery. After recuperation I couldn’t return to an active role as a tank crewman due to health issues. I went back to Bovington to work in the technical stores and became responsible for the supply of over 100 vehicles until my army contract completed.
“Well imagine a world without social housing; imagine if everyone had a mortgage and was beholden to the banks.”
I left the army for a job as a security coordinator at a large merchant bank in London and also The Royal Academy of Art. After a few years, I returned home to the stability of my family, as home was my safe place, my normal place when I came home on army leave. This was the family house I had known for most of my life.
I then got involved and started a community group with Halton Housing Trust (HHT). As most of the people who came to our meetings had housing questions I wasn’t able to answer, HHT sponsored me to do the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) Level 2 in 2008. I gained a ‘distinction’ and could then offer advice to my community about housing matters.
In 2010, I attended Elland House for a consultation about the Localism Act; this was where I first heard about scrutiny. I was asked by HHT to get involved in setting up the Scrutiny Panel in 2010.
I have visited many social housing providers across the country such as Moat, Walsall Housing Group, Newport City Homes and many more to offer my insight into scrutiny. I have also been guest speaker at the Midlands Network for Resident Involvement Conference 2015 where I spoke about my journey as an involved customer, hoping to inspire others. In 2014, I gained my CIH Level 3 with yet another ‘distinction’ and again I was helped by HHT.
I feel the stigma surrounding social housing is a perception much as there is a perception of crime and actual crime. If you look at the figures they don’t tally, the media portrays social housing tenants in a particular way whether to support a policy driven by government or purely out of sensationalism. Either way, my reality of social housing is very different from the way it is portrayed. My community is very stable, I have known most of my neighbours for the majority of my life and we look out for each other.
Why am I proud to be a tenant in Halton?
Well imagine a world without social housing; imagine if everyone had a mortgage and was beholden to the banks.
Then imagine a few people who you had never even met had made some bad choices and then there was a recession.
Imagine how many people would be destitute right now, what would have happened to me if my career was ended through no fault of my own? I’d be at the mercy of the banks or the unregulated private landlords with no rights and no future. I wouldn’t be living, I’d be just existing.
I cannot work full-time due to my injuries. But being an involved tenant gives me meaning. It makes me a productive member of my community although it may be limited and it gives me the chance to help others, so yes – I’m a proud tenant.
Andrew Shaw, #proudtenant and member of scrutiny, Halton Housing Trust
On Twitter: @Andrew_W_Shaw
#HousingDay is on Wednesday 18 November