Comment: We must reinvent, reposition and refresh

Sitting in the managing director’s chair in one of the country’s most diverse housing and support organisations, in one of our most multicultural cities, is always an interesting and challenging experience.

Particularly now.  Everywhere I turn there’s news of cuts, changes to the welfare benefits system and expectations to provide housing-related support services when budgets are no longer ring-fenced.  Even the prospects of ending lifelong tenancies loom overhead menacingly.

The temptation to surrender is overwhelming. But these are real issues that we must deal as individuals and as organisations helping some of the most marginalised people in society.

My window overlooks a busy Leicester street where I see a constant flow of people. Some are making their way to and from the city centre or the local mosque. Others are bustling back and forth between their offices or the nearby homeless hostel.

In moments like these I think of some of the people I’ve met.

I think of Angela, who we helped find a new home and empowered to deal with her health and personal issues.  Now she is a mentor to ex-offenders.

Foundation HA managing director Nikki Chawda

I think of Stefanos, who came to our hostel from war-torn Eritrea. With our encouragement and his determination he now studies medical biochemistry at the University of Leicester.

I think of Ian, a bi-polar disorder sufferer, who now works part-time and studies mental health awareness at college.

I think of Cora who came to our SAFE team to escape physical and emotional abuse from her partner. We helped her to resettle and set up a new home for her family. Now she can move her life forward.

So whatever is on my desk – business plan, risk management or development programme – I remember that, like many housing associations, Foundation was set up by a small group of people, dedicated to helping those who had been marginalised and ignored by the system.

While the realities of our current climate may make our work more difficult, we, as social providers, have the knowledge and expertise to embrace the challenge. But to survive and thrive will mean reinventing, repositioning and refreshing ourselves.

It’s what an organisation with people at its heart must do.

Behind the clouds the sun is still shining. The needs of our vibrant and diverse communities remain. It’s our job and our responsibility to adapt and ensure we are there for them.

Nikki Chawda

Nikki is the managing director of Foundation HA – a BME housing association.

This article is reproduced courtesy of 24 Housing.

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