Guest blog by Anna Gillespie - CEO of CHADD (Churches Housing Association of Dudley & District)

Do we believe in a safety net or not?

That was the question David Lammy MP asked us all in a passionate response after the tragedy at Grenfell Tower. The tragedy has highlighted more than ever how vital it is to have a safe secure home. Life can be immeasurably tough when you find yourself homeless, roofless and desperate.

And so with all the Grenfell Tower aftermath playing in my mind, and knowing the work we do in Dudley to support those experiencing homelessness, off we went to the Black Country Homelessness Conference on 22nd June hosted by Housing Justice and Transforming Communities Together.  We were there to learn from others and join together to tackle homelessness across the region, and CHADD were also facilitating a discussion on the links between domestic abuse and homelessness.

 

In the conference hall were local churches, community groups, charities, other faith groups and people who had direct experience of being homeless. We heard from Steve Clay, from Black Country YMCA on their work and from Matt Lambert from Hope in Action. West Midlands Mayor Andy Street joined us in the afternoon to confirm his commitment to the cause too.

There was a huge awareness of a homeless crisis gathering pace around the Black Country but also of how people were coming together to find innovative solutions – check out Alternative Giving in Wolverhampton. Housing Justice are really spearheading initiatives to build and create new homes using land and resources together with churches, and campaign on issues of social justice.

Our friends Brierley Hill Project led a workshop on life support coaching and developing Foodbank provision.  It was good to see Dudley represented well at the event and to share how things are working in a very different part of the Black Country.

Anthony gave a powerful personal account of his own life journey and experience of homelessness, praising the Glebe Centre team who had become his family.

In our session on domestic abuse, against a backdrop of stunning stained glass windows, there was a commitment from all present to develop domestic abuse champions in communities and churches to adequately respond to domestic abuse and to break the cycle of abuse and prevent escalation, crisis and homelessness. By the way you can sign-up for free awareness training here on older people and domestic abuse:

www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/churches-housing-association-of-dudley-and-district-chadd-14364842916

But it was the words of Matt Lambert, that connected with me – we must stop seeing people who are experiencing homelessness as broken beings who need fixing, who are stigmatised, and are treated only as deficient or needy. They are people who have talents and strengths, and abilities, and aspirations, and have something to give back to the world – like all of us. Working with people on an equal footing is quite a radical approach. They are not just a number.  Matt did a great job communicating his passion on this. It also sums up our Safety Net and Springboard ethos at CHADD.

It was a significant day – and the follow up work has already started!

Final thought? At lunchtime I spoke with a local authority officer who was so excited at the thought of what could be achieved. In fact, their words were: ‘In my job I have to apply all these rules and laws to decide who will get help, and who will not, who is deserving, who is not, who can receive our limited resources, and who I have to turn away….it can be soul destroying. But here today, are you guys saying you want to find a way to help everyone, no rules, no judgements because you value everyone….that is priceless.”

Anna Gillespie
CEO at CHADD