Hammersmith Reflections – Four hundred years of support, and counting!

This month we continued our celebrations of the charity’s 400year anniversary with a Grand Party at St. Paul’s. We also launched UNITED in Hammersmith & Fulham with our sister charity Dr Edwards and Bishop King’s.

The theme of our celebration year is bringing people together, and our guests included representatives of many of the local groups and charities that we fund or partner with, as well as residents of our sheltered accommodation. Some great new connections were made.

Naturally I’ve been reflecting on our long history – what’s changed, what’s stayed the same, what it all means and what the future might hold.

The material and technological progress that has been made since 1618 would astonish our founders. Life expectancy has soared, and for the vast majority of us those lives have a comfort and a richness of experience that even the wealthiest people of the seventeenth century could not imagine. We take it for granted that we have a plentiful supply of drinkable water; that we won’t die of plague, smallpox or cholera; that we can communicate instantly with friends and family in other places; that we can travel quickly and easily not just across London but to other continents.

So when so much has changed, why is a charity that was founded to provide accommodation and food for the poorest people of four centuries ago still relevant today? For me the answer is that something that has not changed (and I hope never will) is the human desire to improve our lives – and to share the best things in life with others. I am sure our founders would have understood our ambition not to provide the bare minimum for our residents but to give them the best quality accommodation that we can. That means that we need a continuous programme of refurbishment and updating of our buildings.

And our founders would have understood why we strive not just to cater for people’s material needs, but to offer opportunities for people to enjoy experiences that bring happiness and fulfilment. That’s why some of our grants fund activities like dance, art classes and sports, both for older residents of Hammersmith and for some of the youngest.

As an accountant, business plans and budgets have played a big part in my professional life. But in the context of a 400 year old organisation how far ahead should we plan? At our celebration event, the oldest guests were in their nineties, the youngest still at primary school. By the time those children reach their nineties (round about the year 2100!) changes will have happened in politics, technology, society and the economy that I can’t begin to guess at. There will be many changes in the charity too, not least in successive generations of trustees and staff. It would be futile to try to plan in detail for that period, but since our ambition is to be there for those children (and their children and grandchildren) when they need us, we must try both to address today’s immediate needs and to leave our successors a strong and confident organisation.

In planning our 400th anniversary year we were determined that, as well as celebrating the Hammersmith community of today, we must create something for the future.  That will partly spring from the connections that we hope we’re making with and between local people. But we also hope that we’ll be able to see 2018 as being a milestone in our history for the launch of UNITED in Hammersmith & Fulham. UNITED’s long–term success will depend on the hard work of many people, some not yet born, but if the past 400 years are any guide to the future then we will have plenty to celebrate at our 500th anniversary in 2118.

Mike Smith
Chair of Trustees
July 2018

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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