Last year, a group of traditional housing associations concerned about rising homelessness came together to highlight the 50th anniversary of Ken Loach’s BBC drama documentary Cathy Come Home and to press the housing association sector to do more to help homeless people.
We called ourselves the Homes for Cathy group.
The housing associations in the group were from all parts of the country but had all been set up half a century ago by volunteers inspired by the Cathy story coming together with the aim of providing housing for homeless people.
A lot has been achieved in the past year.
We have hosted numerous events including film shows; Cathy plays with the excellent Cardboard Citizens theatre group; a parliamentary reception for MPs and members of the House of Lords; and homelessness debates with local and national politicians.
We have produced an education pack for schools and we have worked with the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) on their own homelessness initiatives.
We have set up a website and have spoken at housing conferences including the Placeshapers conference in November.
We have sponsored and promoted Inside Housing’s Reel Homes film competition and we have built hundreds of affordable homes during the year.
But still the number of rough sleepers and families in temporary accommodation continues to rise.
We all need to do more. We know that many other housing associations support our aims.
So we now want to invite all housing associations that are concerned about rising homelessness to join the Homes for Cathy group.
This is what we are asking members to agree:
- We will strive to keep the issue of homelessness in the hearts and minds of housing association boards and employees, as well as our local communities and stakeholders
- We will seek to work with partners in our local areas to find long-term solutions that reduce homelessness
- We will be honest with each other in sharing our successes and failures in preventing homelessness through tenancy failures
- We will publicise our commitment to ending homelessness, for example by identifying with the Homes for Cathy group through our social media platforms, including our websites, and on development scheme boards
We want to work closely with other homelessness and housing charities and with membership bodies such as the Chartered Institute of Housing, the National Housing Federation and RICS.
We will hold a national conference in early 2018.
There is much to do. The Homelessness Reduction Act will come into force in 2018. Housing First is being trialled up and down the country and there is much interest from politicians in supporting this initiative.
But, above all, we believe that we need to continue the campaign for government support for more homes at rents that people can afford, as part of a sustainable route out of homelessness.
We will shortly be writing to all housing association chief executives.
Our running costs will be covered at least for the first year so there is no membership fee involved.
We are simply seeking a commitment to our Homes for Cathy aims and principles and to participation in our activities so that, together as a sector, we can try to make a real difference to the lives of homeless people.