My focus as President
CIH President and South Liverpool Homes chief executive Julie Fadden guest blogs for CIH about her fundraising activities for Crisis, how the rest of the sector can get involved and why rehousing 50,000 homeless people in a year might not be as difficult as you'd think.
I started my Presidential year laid up with sciatica and literally couldn't walk - but thanks to the interventions of a chiropractic genius and losing two stone for Crisis I am bouncing around full of energy and pain-free once again. Watch out, world!
"Why," I hear you scream, "are you losing weight for Crisis?"
In starting my year as President and choosing Crisis as the focus of my Presidential appeal, I wanted to do something to personally contribute to the fundraising effort. As I am fat and unfit a marathon would be a risk, so I have embarked on a journey to lose 10 stone for Crisis and seek to raise £10,000 as a consequence, with lovely, generous people sponsoring me 'pound for pound' via the JustGiving website.
Since 1 June 2016, my weight loss stands at just over two stone and I have raised £6,664.87 including gift aid - the more I lose, the more Crisis will gain and use the money to get homeless people the help and support they need.
What you can do
I am also inviting all CIH members - and their families and friends - to join me in sleep-outs all over the UK, which are being organised by regional and national boards. In the North West, the regional board is organising a haunted sleep-out with a midnight ghost walk thrown in at the historic National Trust property at Speke Hall!
Can your area organise something similar to get creative juices flowing and encourage all local people to get involved and turn their night sleeping out into hard sponsorship cash for Crisis? Just one evening of discomfort can bring such benefit for those who do this every night - not just for one night. Why not do this as a team for team-building and raise money at the same time? It's so much cheaper than paying for hotels and bespoke team-building events.
At South Liverpool Homes (SLH) where I work, the teams have been very busy organising monthly 'Funday Monday' events, which are themed around events such as the Euro 2016 tournament, Wimbledon and the Olympics. This week it's a 'back to school' theme - it'll be a lot of fun and we'll raise lots of cash to help people on the streets. Your organisation could do something similar and donate any proceeds via our JustGiving page.
My focus as President
As well as visiting CIH members around the UK and opening the lovely new CIH office in Edinburgh last week, I am also getting out and about meeting homeless charities. These organisations work tirelessly to try and stem the tide of homeless people who, due to factors such as austerity, family breakdown and mental illness, find themselves on the streets with nowhere to turn - and the numbers are increasing by the day.
One of the charities I have been out patrolling with is the Papercup Project in Liverpool. Its team heads out every week to give clothes, food and drink to homeless people and, more importantly, listen to their stories.
I have been heartbroken by the stories the homeless people share. This could happen to any one of us - in the blink of an eye lives change and things spiral out of control. Take Stephen: he was happy with a partner and baby until one night when their baby died of cot death, and as a consequence his partner committed suicide. This caused his world to end; he lost a grip on his life and ended up on the streets, terrified of being beaten up, or worse.
I met Stephen on my first trip out with the team and resolved to help him there and then. The next day we picked him up and rehoused him in a fully furnished flat with everything he needed - clothes, food and even cutlery, all waiting to give him a fresh start. It might have taken months to get Stephen on the streets but only hours to get him off them and into a warm home. I would like to say this was hard, but it wasn't - it was the easiest thing I have ever done in my 37-year career.
This experience got me thinking about what we all could achieve if all housing organisations resolved to house two additional homeless people a month. Just ask local homeless agencies to give you two homeless people a month to rehouse - if everybody did this we would take an additional 50,000 people off our streets for good. This campaign has been launched on Twitter as #Houze50k - get involved.
All in all, a busy couple of months as your President. I will be back in a couple of months with another update from (hopefully) a slimmer Julie!