A mum who was previously homeless but now has a home and full time job, is urging the government to tackle the ‘devastating’ housing crisis, and invest more money to help and support people move forward in their lives.
Rachel Redley, 32, lives with her 12-year-old son in Bournemouth, but nine years ago they were homeless and Rachel was suffering from crippling depression and anxiety. She said: “My private landlord’s home was repossessed and because there was no housing available for us, my son and I were put into a hostel in Poole. “At night when the staff went home the place was full of drug taking and the threat of violence. We were there for six months. I was petrified and sank into a deep depression.”
Rachel sought advice from Shelter and was referred to BCHA which supports thousands of people a year to find stability, safety and independence through housing, specialist accommodation, training programmes and health and wellbeing advice.
BCHA quickly provided Rachel and her son with supported housing and a support worker. Rachel said: “We were offered BCHA accommodation for three years, which is how long it can take to receive council housing. The weight off my shoulders was huge.
BCHA also gave us a support worker Carmela Richmond who literally guided me back to a life of hope. She helped me get counselling after a diagnosis of PTSD and depression and showed me I wasn’t failing my son as I feared. I was also able to get practical help to apply for council housing.” Rachel continued: “After three years my BCHA lease ran out, but the council told me the property I was due to move into still wasn’t ready – thankfully BCHA gave me another six months until it was, or I could have been right back at square one.”
BCHA Employment Engagement Officer Charli Cowley also helped Rachel to train through its New Directions programme and apply for a job she loves, working full time as a painter and decorator for BCHA’s social enterprise arm New Leaf Repairs.
Rachel added: “I wake up glad to be alive, excited to go to work and thankful for what has been done for me by BCHA. My son and I are now in a council property. I am off all my medication and I am paying my bills – giving back what I have received. But there are thousands of people out there who are stuck, unable to thrive and contribute because they cannot access affordable housing. The government needs to act fast.”
Martin Hancock, Chief Executive of BCHA is lobbying the new government to make the housing crisis a priority and put more revenue money into supporting people, as a relatively short term investment is more than paid back over a lifetime back into work, as Rachel demonstrates.
He is backing the National Housing Federation’s (NHF) ‘Let’s Fix the Housing Crisis’ campaign which is calling on the next government to build 250,000 homes every year for 10 years, including 90,000 for social rent and 25,000 for shared ownership.
The NHF says investing £12.8 billion in new social housing for the next 10 years would meet the country’s affordable housing need.
Martin Hancock said: “Building new social homes will not only fix the housing crisis we are in but it will also support the economy and lower the benefit bill. I would also call on the next government to change the law surrounding Section 106 to make it compulsory for developers to build a percentage of affordable housing. Providing affordable homes helps people into work and saves the country money in the long run – Rachel is a human example of the return on investment the country will receive if the government acts now - and which we all benefit from.”