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History repeats

Services for homeless people are just as relevant today as they were decades ago, says Mike Andrews

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Like many others in this country, I recently went to see Ken Loach’s new hard-hitting film – I, Daniel Blake. I know I am not alone when I say that those 100 minutes have stayed in my thoughts over the past few weeks.

It reminded me of a report that the founder of Nottingham Community Housing Association (NCHA), and at that time chief executive, Andrew Malone, commissioned a decade ago. The aim: to investigate what had changed since the housing and homelessness crisis that engulfed Britain in the 1960s.

“The statistics may have changed, but the need to urge the government and general public to react to the housing crisis has remained the same.”

The report used the storyline of Ken Loach’s Cathy Come Home to highlight the reality of what had changed in those 40 years. It invited contributions from leading organisations from within the housing, architecture and medical sector. The report culminated with a manifesto of what could be done to change our sector in the decades ahead, offering positive steps for the government, local authorities and housing associations to take hold of, so everybody could have access to a decent and healthy home.

Yet here we are today, and the words printed a decade ago still feel relevant. The statistics may have changed (and not always for the better), but the need to urge the government and general public to react to the housing crisis has remained the same.

NCHA has operated for more than 43 years all over the East Midlands; my staff and I know that our services and support are still desperately needed. Our work has diversified over the years, yet we’ve always tried to develop homes, services and care that support people in their time of need.

We have long-standing services for young homeless people that show little sign of being underused. Our Sound as a Pound project provides financial advice to young people through peer-to-peer mentoring with the aim of preventing debt and homelessness, and every year our tenancy support team helps make sure hundreds of our tenants have the correct benefits to enable them to stay in their home.

But it’s not just about putting a roof over somebody’s head.

Homelessness and worklessness all too often go hand in hand. We’re proud to have invested in Access Training, which specialises in learning and training for young people who are in many instances disadvantaged and the furthest from the workplace.

I’ve pledged our organisation’s support for Inside Housing’s Reel Homes film competition. I hope we can inspire the next generation of film-makers to challenge and provoke us all, shining a light on the people in our country who need change, who need hope, and who need a decent home.

Mike Andrews, chief executive, Nottingham Community Housing Association

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