Vote for your Best Housing Story
It's time to put your story in the headlines
This award celebrates contributions that have made a positive difference to the life of a tenant(s) or community. Each of the shortlisted nominations have expressed in their own words why they should win. Although the winner will be chosen by you, through a public vote.
Aughrim Court, Amazing Spaces, Choice Housing Ireland Ltd
Friendships, feelings of belonging and improved mental health; these are just some of the outcomes from Choice’s Amazing Spaces project at Aughrim Court, Kilkeel. This simple garden project has had a huge impact on the lives of the residents. With the involvement of residents, local community groups and staff volunteers the overgrown, unused space was transformed. Aughrim Court now boasts a wildflower garden, peace garden, river rockery and most importantly a sense of achievement among the residents.
A total of 8 agencies and 56 people, aged from 11 to 87, contributed, working a total of 488 person hours. This project is an outstanding example of how housing can deliver positive impacts on individuals’ lives, and for that reason we feel that there can be no better example of the best housing story.
Joan Maginn Aughrim Court-
“Being part of the garden group has helped my mental health and given me a sense of purpose taking a lead role in the front garden and planning and designing our new gardens. “
• Overcome significant obstacles to improve housing outcomes in their community
The residents at Aughrim Court were the catalyst for this project. Through feedback Choice understood their need for a safe, calm outdoor space. The biggest obstacle to the project was funding, but residents got the ball rolling by contributing personally and raising over £600. Inspired by their commitment to the project, Choice were proud to give £250 through it’s Charitable Giving Fund.
Scheme Coordinator, Desanne Coleman, applied for a LiveHere LoveHere Small Grant and received £600. Desanne ensured value for money and even persuaded local businesses and the local council to donate resources.
Achieved change through personal dedication and a positive attitude – showing commitment to supporting others
Desanne garnered support for the project from local community groups and volunteers. She led the way with her positive attitude and commitment to the residents’ goal. Kilkeel Mens’ Shed were first on board, bringing a wealth of practical knowledge and willingness. Desanne invited local support group for people with learning disabilities, Mourne Stimulus Nurseries, and tenants from other schemes, everyone was delighted to get involved. With so many groups and individuals contributing the outcome is a space with something for everyone.
The final group to get their hands dirty were Choice staff, who volunteered their own time to participate.
Steve Camillare tenant at Aughrim Court-
“The garden project helps everyone here. My doctor said it is a great idea and very therapeutic. It is not just the flowers that grow in the garden; it is the friendships and feeling of belonging. There is a sense of pride and self-worth for everyone who is involved. It is great to see everyone doing their bit and every day someone will bring visitors to the garden to have a look. We are all grateful for the chance to have a garden that helps make this our home”.
• Acted beyond the requirements of their role.
Desanne’s efforts in motivating tenants, drawing down finance and managing this project cannot be understated; she deserves the fullest appreciation and recognition for her dedication. Desanne’s commitment has inspired her colleagues at Choice, with 7 members of staff from across the organisation getting involved with a sheltered living scheme on a personal level. All staff that contributed their time attested to the importance of supporting others and the feeling of satisfaction from volunteering.
“I really enjoyed getting out of the office and doing something so practical for our tenants. I will be looking forward to more opportunities to repeat this experience.” Chris Wear, Admin Assistant.
Knock Eden, Radius Housing
Knock Eden is a supported-living scheme for 16 people with severe learning and physical disabilities which opened its door 14 years ago.
The tenants who came to live in Knock Eden at its foundation had previously lived in institutional care and were known as “non identity” because they had no means of proving their identity. They had no birth certificates, utility bills, passports, bank accounts, access to money and had incorrect hospital ID numbers. Their ‘home’ was completely clinical, without windows and they had minimal communication with other humans and no tactile contact at all. Their previous home had no soft furnishings, curtains or items that gave any sense of homeliness. Residents did not have their own individual personalised bedrooms and had no personal belongings.
Living in Knock Eden has transformed the lives of all the people who live there. Each tenant has their own individual and personalised flat, their own clothes and beautiful homely surroundings. Their visitors come and go as they please we hold regular birthday and anniversary celebrations and parties. We also provide holidays abroad and regular outings which aim to make every resident feel part of a community.
Our work with residents has become highly specialised. To ensure tenants had their benefits paid we had to meet with several banks. Unfortunately with no means of identification this was no easy task. With the support of management all tenants were able to get birth certificates issued, have rent accounts created for them and hospital identification was corrected to allow for ease of access to medical records. In doing this the tenants were able to get their own passports which not only allowed travel but also put each in a better position to liaise with benefit agencies to seek rights to claim their entitled benefits.
The importance of the move to supported living at Knock Eden cannot be over-stated. Each tenant was reunited with their human rights. They were given the right to their identity, choice, fairness, respect, equality, dignity, ability to live, protection from harm and be part of an advocacy group. These are the things we take for granted.
Their previous institutional care arrangements meant they were isolated from family and community life; prone to self harm out of boredom; susceptible to incidents of challenging behaviour; had no love for life; had their human rights ignored and disrespected; had no quality of life; had limited connections with local community and had no social life.
Through the determination and dedication of the management and staff at Knock Eden, all tenants now enjoy a life they didn’t know existed or thought was possible.
The support staff have worked hard as advocates for the tenants to ensure they have the best quality of life possible given the ongoing restrictions they face with their disabilities.
Longstone Street, Radius Housing
MACS identified a need for a supported living scheme in the Lisburn area after ongoing consultation with the young people’s services in the South Eastern Trust.
Longstone street was developed in partnership with Radius Housing and the South Eastern Trust and opened its doors to 9 young people in July 2016. There are 7 self-contained flats for young people who are leaving care or who have been homeless and aged 16 – 21 years old. The young people that move into the 7 self-contained flats can stay up to two years. There are also 2 flats for short-term emergency accommodation for 16-17 year olds who present to the NIHE as homeless. This emergency accommodation is provided to allow the South Eastern Trust time to complete a UNOCINI assessment.
The staff from MACS and Radius met with representatives from the local community on many occasions to get the community onboard this development given the stigma that can come with young people who are facing homelessness or leaving care. All the hard work and the community involvement and engagement have meant that Longstone street has successfully entered into their third year of being part of the Lisburn Community.
Longstone Street aims to support young people who for reasons such as:
- Facing homelessness;
- History of Substance abuse;
- Mental Health difficulties;
- Anti-Social Behaviour;
- Leaving Care;
- Marginalised and at risk;
- Experiencing low mood;
- Thoughts of suicide;
- Issues with confidence
The staff at Longstone street are there 24/7 to provide the young people with support and guidance to name but a few:
- Make sure they are getting the right benefits;
- Help with budgeting, shopping, paying bills;
- Personalising their space;
- Registering with GP and Dentist;
- Keeping safe;
- How to be a good neighbour and actively getting involved in their community in a positive way;
- Support to access training, education and employment
Many of the young people that present to Longstone street have become stuck and are engaed in negative patterns of thinking and behaving that prevent them from fulfilling their potential and leading the lives that they want to lead.
The staff and young people at Longstone street have overcome the negative views and obstacles that they were continually presented with when they were preparing to open, and have successfully moved approximately 90% of young people back into the community with the help, resources and skills needed to support them achieving their goals.
Social Housing Enterprise Programme, NI Housing Executive
The Housing Executive's Social Housing Enterprise Programme was launched in September 2015 with the primary objective to invest in new or existing social enterprises within Housing Executive communities. Despite significant investments in social housing over many years, there remain the profound issues of social and economic deprivation leaving our communities the most likely to be socially disadvantaged and excluded from the wider community. We acknowledge that 75% of Housing Executive tenants receive full or partial Housing Benefit and this strategy aims in some way try and reverse the reliance on benefits.
We are the only Social Housing provider throughout the UK and Ireland delivering such an innovative Programme, providing assistance for tenants in regards to social enterprise. Funding for the Programme is money reinvested form our commercial property portfolio.
The Programme launched with a 3 year strategy, with an annual investment of £500,000 a year. We ensure that all funds go directly into our communities and invest in existing social enterprises to create new services, jobs and training opportunities within Housing Executive communities. To date we have invested £1.4 million directly into our communities through the programme.
This was managed through 3 investment awards tranches with investment grants of up to £1000 to support individuals, up to £10,000 for embryonic, up to £20,000 for emerging and £50,000 for established social enterprises. These awards are geared directly to those residents within our communities
As an organisation we aim not only to provide homes but build communities where our tenants want to live, socialise and work. In our communities we want to, create an environment “in which housing plays its part in creating a peaceful, inclusive, prosperous and fair society. We are passionate about empowering communities to make real change.
Case Study : Artillery Youth Group ‘Bosco Bakery’ received £10,000 to establish a community cafe / bakery to employ young people.
What was the evidenced need? Artillery Youth Group run a well-established youth facility in the heart of the New lodge, a single identity community experiencing generational multiple deprivation in North Belfast. The programme works with young adults who experience extensive challenges and barriers to securing employment.
What support was provided through the NIHE Social Housing Enterprise Strategy? The Social Housing Enterprise Team provided developmental support, liaised with the NIHE Commercial Lettings team, provided £10k capital support and introduced the service to potential users.
What was the change directly attributed to the intervention? A previously vacant commercial let in an area of multiple deprivation was renovated to provide a high quality, affordable deli where young marginalised adults are trained and provided with transferable skills which have enabled them to secure local employment.
What was the impact/legacy of the support provided? Harry Murphy from Bosco Bakery said:
‘The Executive were brave… they listened to us a youth service with no previous experience in retail but saw beyond that and saw that we had a great idea but need some support to make it a reality. No one else was prepared to do that …because of their willingness to support us both financially and developmentally we have been able to create a Social Housing Enterprise run, managed and used by local people. In the year we have been operational we have created jobs for five local people who for a variety of barriers had not been able to secure permanent employment previously. We also have worked in partnership with Artillery Youth Club to develop a structured, supportive pathway to employment programme for 26 young adults with no previous experience of working. 13 of them are working in entry level jobs.
Tenant-led Transformation at Caffrey Hill, Clanmil Houisng
Clanmil provides more than 600 family homes in west Belfast including 165 at Caffrey Hill. West Belfast is Northern Ireland’s most socially deprived area with historically high levels of ASB.
A west Belfast community hub was established in 2017, after tenants lobbied Clanmil for community space where they could play an active part in helping to address ongoing problems. Following an extensive consultation and trust building process with tenants, Clanmil developed Hub West.
From the Hub, Clanmil provides a range of services for local people including employability programmes, housing management and community capacity building events. The space is also used by community and statutory partners to provide services to tenants. In this way, our staff are developing good local relationships and networks that help them effectively manage ASB.
With support from Clanmil’s Community Fund, which helps fund community and voluntary work with a social purpose, tenants are now taking the lead and using this space to independently develop and run events and initiatives for neighbours that are improving local people’s health and wellbeing and increasing the sense of community and neighbourliness in the area.
Two tenants in particular, have quickly seized the opportunity to help address this disadvantaged area’s societal issues, supported by a Clanmil Community Fund grant of £1,000.
- Elisha, was socially isolated and rarely left her home. Before the creation of Hub West, Elisha was disengaged from Clanmil and fairly disgruntled. Elisha’s hobby, crochet, was her release. It helped her focus on something positive and creative that distracted her from the struggles of day-to-day life. She wanted to share the benefits of her hobby with her neighbours and now volunteers 8 hours every week running a crochet group at the Hub for over 40 participants.
Elisha says, “People with all kinds of stresses and worries come to enjoy some ‘Creative Therapy’. They can unwind, have a chat and focus on something completely different. It’s good for my mental health too. It’s motivated me to get out, make friends and do something for myself.”
- Anne, a skilled artist, approached staff about using the space to run an art class for neighbours. 12 people currently attend her weekly class. Anne says the 4 hours she volunteers each week “take me out of my dark place” and give her respite from caring for her elderly mother who has dementia.
Watch Anne’s story here - http://www.clanmil.org/real-clanmil-lives-anne.php
These groups are making a real difference within their community;
- For one lady, an alcoholic, the crochet classes provide her only social interaction. They give her week structure and she has developed a new circle of supportive friends which helps with her addiction.
- Another lady, who has Parkinson’s, is being supported by Anne to use her tremor to her advantage in her painting and is regaining self-confidence as a result.
Enthused by the success of these groups, a number of active tenants are currently being supported by Clanmil to establish a west Belfast Tenant Forum based at The Hub. The Forum represents tenants from three different neighbourhoods, steers the work delivered by Clanmil in west Belfast and has increased community ownership of the Hub. The group are planning to access further funding streams and offer more tenant-led health and wellbeing initiatives. This will sustain the momentum created by Elishia and Anne’s pioneering programmes.