#AyeWeCan 6: Home is where the start is
Challenge Poverty Week blog by Brita Ingebrigtsen, Communications Officer, Almond Housing Association.
For those experiencing poverty a home can be a first step towards a better life – but, unfortunately, it’s often far from enough. That is why Almond Housing Association (AHA) aims to go beyond traditional housing services to better support our tenants and their communities.
These are challenging times. As the housing crisis in the UK worsens, more people than ever are homeless or sleeping rough. Others have a hard time finding work or getting by on low wages, struggling to pay rent, heat their homes or feed their families.
Almond Housing Association serves Craigshill, Livingston, a community in the top 5% most deprived areas in Scotland. Unemployment levels are high, and nearly twice as many children live in low income families compared to West Lothian as a whole. Adding to the long list of problems facing Craigshill residents, welfare reforms have placed enormous additional pressures on our customers in recent times.
With over 1,300 tenants living in this area, we want to support the community beyond providing affordable housing. Because, like most other social landlords, our job does not stop once a key has been handed over. That’s just the beginning.
Tenancy sustainment and support
We have made tenancy sustainment a priority and work hard to come up with real and innovative solutions to support our customers to sustain their tenancies. Our Tenancy Sustainment Officer and Welfare Benefits Adviser are key players in this endeavour.
Since we started up 25 years, ago AHA has supported a range of successful Wider Role initiatives informed by our tenants and board. These have included projects addressing issues of local concern, including fuel poverty, digital inclusion, financial inclusion, winter wellbeing, homelessness, young care leavers and early literacy. We are committed to the overall improvement of the communities we work within, and our work with community groups and organisations, as well as local people, has resulted in many successes.
Free packs, books and food
Welcome Packs, Starter Packs and Winter Wellbeing packs are among the support packages we offer to tenants, most often, to meet the immediate need for essential items that some customers are not able to access for themselves due to circumstances such as homelessness or low income.
Through our partnership with an initiative called Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, we also offer free books and reading activities for children under-five.
We live in one of the richest countries in the world, yet food poverty is affecting an increasing number of people across Scotland.
Our goal is to support families and individuals to access fresh, quality affordable food so that everyone has the means, ability and opportunity to make healthy meals. To alleviate food poverty in our communities, we have helped establish a local food bank and a Community Fridge. We also support four local Community Garden projects and are an active participant in a food poverty network group.
Making a difference – together
Our wider role function is guided by our commitment to The Better Off: Anti-Poverty Strategy 2018 to 2023, and as an active participant in the West Lothian Anti-Poverty network, led by West Lothian Council – we have many allies in tackling poverty in our local areas. Working with our partners, our aims are for fewer people experience poverty, and that no-one experiences destitution; and everyone has the opportunity to move towards a future free of poverty.
We’re proud to be one of the organisations supporting Challenge Poverty Week. Social landlords witness the poverty in Scotland, every single day, and it’s more important than ever that we keep sharing our experiences, challenges and success stories.
Homelessness and poverty can be overcome, and housing associations are in a uniquely good position to make a difference. Aye, we can!