Hammersmith reflections

A blog written by our Trustees - this time Sam Deards

I joined Hammersmith United Charities as a trustee back in 2014 and since then have seen the charity grow and I have got to know intimately what the charity does and aims to do in the future.

I grew up and went to school in Hammersmith and have always loved the area for its rich history and diversity. I didn’t know anything about the Charity before I was recommended by a friend to meet with Melanie and Tim, but have been very encouraged by the work it does in trying to help the less well off and connecting people from all backgrounds to increase greater community cohesion and neighbourliness.

I sit on the housing committee and have become chair of the grants committee, as well as attending board meetings. I have sat on the admissions panel for a couple of sets of admissions to the sheltered housing and have learned a lot and been moved by the life stories of people that we met and the decisions that had to be made. It also gave me a greater understanding of the social housing landscape and needs in Hammersmith.

As chair of the grants committee, I have seen how grants are so important to enable really worthwhile activities and help in the local community. Some of the issues that we have tried to tackle include isolation, mental health, anti tribalism, integration and community cohesion.

Some events I particularly have enjoyed are the “Enigma” and art discussion lunches that have pulled various people from the local community, together with residents of Sycamore and JB house to discuss art and poetry and what it means to them. It was great to see people chatting and discussing things that they wouldn’t normally discuss and with people that they probably wouldn’t come in to contact with on a day to day basis, but live side by side. Another was the film screening at the Lyric theatre last year. There was an impressive array of contributions from hugely diverse organisations and individuals. To me it succinctly expressed so many ideas and illustrated so many things about the local area from different viewpoints.

I also sit on the board of the Wormholt and White City Big Local Board (Hammersmith United Charities match funds). This gives a greater insight into this particular area and the challenges faced from this diverse community. A particular highlight has been to see the community chest expand and succeed and a great festival last summer with a great array of stalls, food, music and celebration.

Finally, on a slightly separate note, I am also a trustee for the Hammersmith and Fulham Arts Festival which has been going since 2014 and has really grown and expanded in the local area. This year we have got funding from the Arts Council  England, together with funds from Hammersmith United Charities and the local council to put on “JOY” a celebration of disability in the borough and will also form part of the 400 year celebration for the Charity. It is wonderful to be involved in this and bringing together different organisations and people, to give a greater voice and freedom to people living with disabilities.

 

Sam Deards

Hammersmith United Charities Response to Coronavirus (COVID-19)

In line with Government advice, Hammersmith United Charities has invoked our Business Continuity Plan and implemented a new operating model focussed on keeping the residents of our Almshouses, our team, contractors and partners safe and well during the Coronavirus pandemic. (more…)

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The almshouse movement

So much more than affordable housing

With the average house price in Hammersmith at more than 25 times the salary of a nurse, it is no surprise that many workers are reaching retirement without the safety net of their own property. That’s why almshouses like ours, providing older people an affordable home in the community where they belong, are as vital now as when the movement began hundreds of years ago.

By Victoria Hill, Chief Executive – Hammersmith United Charities

 

The coronavirus has seen an outpouring of appreciation for key workers who leave the safety of their home to work keeping their community safe, fed and well. In the frightening early days of the first lockdown, we stood in the street and clapped for healthcare workers, carers, shop assistants, cleaners and more – all the people who put themselves at risk for the sake of others.

The contribution of key workers is rarely highly valued in monetary terms and these are often the very people who struggle to find an affordable home near their families and vital services as they grow older and become more in need of care themselves.

The average house price in Hammersmith is more than 25 times the salary of a nurse, and so it is no surprise that increasing numbers of workers are reaching retirement without their own property to fall back on. And with the average rental cost of a one-bedroom flat at two and a half times the state pension, it is easy to see how so many older people are also priced out of the private rental market.

With one in four older people in our area now living in poverty, the mission of almshouses like ours is as relevant as it was 400 years ago when Hammersmith United Charities was founded.

The almshouse movement has been around for hundreds of years but the Almshouse Association and the Charity Commission have only recently created a formal definition of what it means to be an almshouse. It describes exactly what we do here at Hammersmith United Charities.

Our charity was founded in 1618 with a gift of £100 to provide housing for the relief of the ‘elderly poor’ of Hammersmith. This gift has been added to and grown by generations of trustees and we now have an endowment and 92 flats on two sites just off the Goldhawk Road. These properties are highly protected and cannot be sold or used for any other purpose. Our residents must be over 60, have lived in Hammersmith for at least five years, be of limited means and in need of sheltered accommodation.

In human terms, our status as an almshouse means that the Charity can provide housing to the people who have often contributed most to our community but feel valued least. We believe that no one should be denied the opportunity to live in a decent home simply because they were never given the opportunity to climb the property ladder. The cost of our flats is regulated by statute to ensure that anyone can live here without causing hardship.

For us, almshouse living is about much more than just affordable housing. We know from research by the What Works Centre for Wellbeing that where we live and our relationships also have a significant impact on our wellbeing. For Hammersmith United Charities, what defines us is our ability to provide a home where people feel safe, in the place where they belong, surrounded by a community who values them for life, not just for lockdown.

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More information:

Over 60 and looking for a new home in Hammersmith? We provide beautiful, welcoming sheltered housing with award-winning communal gardens. Flats available now from £870 per month.

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H&F WINTER COVID APPEAL

UNITED in Hammersmith & Fulham has launched the H&F Winter Covid Appeal in partnership with Hammersmith & Fulham Council

As the UK struggles with rising rates of the virus and a second lockdown commences, many still need our help – including those going through mental health crises, suffering from loneliness and isolation, and at-risk children in need of educational support.

UNITED in Hammersmith & Fulham has launched the H&F Winter Covid Appeal in partnership with Hammersmith & Fulham Council to enable local individuals, businesses and foundations across the borough to support those most in need of assistance.

100% of funds raised will be donated to groups working with people who face risk because of coronavirus in Hammersmith & Fulham this winter.

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Nomad Radio: a lifeline for the Somali community

How one of our grants is keeping the station on the airwaves through the coronavirus crisis.

The UK’s only radio station for the Somali community, Nomad Radio broadcasts here in Hammersmith and Fulham. Community-led and bilingual, it’s just received a grant by Hammersmith United Charities to keep it on the airwaves through the coronavirus crisis.

(more…)

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