Hammersmith Reflections – the first few months of new CEO Victoria

In November I was proud to be appointed as the new CEO of Hammersmith United Charities.

I have spent my first few weeks at the Charity getting to know our staff, residents, trustees and many other stakeholders and finding out more about the Charity’s role in the local community.

The residents of the Charity’s Almshouses have made me feel very welcome in my new role. So far, I have enjoyed coffee mornings, making soup with local charity Soup for Lunch, a carol concert by the pupils of nearby John Bett’s primary school not to mention a lively Christmas lunch. It has been a pleasure to get to know our vibrant community and I will be working hard on our plans to secure more housing for older people in need living locally.

Hammersmith United Charities gives grants to a wide variety of local organisations supporting people living in Hammersmith and I am gradually learning more about them. I attended a splendid Christmas performance by the young participants of the White City Youth Theatre and laughed through a magician’s performance at the Shepherd’s Bush Family Project – I’m not really sure that a CEO’s job is meant to be this much fun! I’m also grateful to all the other grantees I have visited who have shared their insight on the challenges faced by people and organisations living in the borough.

I was thrilled to attend the launch of the Warmer Together campaign kindly hosted by Fulham Good Neighbours. The campaign is delivered by UNITED in Hammersmith and Fulham, a new charity created by Hammersmith United Charities along with our sister charity Dr Edwards and Bishops King to enable people in the borough to be good neighbours and active in their community. The Warmer Together campaign invites those who can afford to do so, to donate to UNITED so that they can provide extra support for less well-off older neighbours. It’s a great example of how UNITED aims to revive the spirit of local philanthropy which brought Hammersmith United Charities into being 400 years ago and I am pleased to have the opportunity to support the new charity grow and thrive.

Finally, I was also delighted to welcome HRH the Duke of Gloucester to Sycamore House in December to present the Almshouse Association Patron’s Awards. HRH and his family have a long association with Hammersmith United Charities and we were even able to show the Duke a photo of his mother at a previous visit! It was a terrific way to end our year of celebrating 400 years of support in Hammersmith and I’m very much looking forward to playing my part in continuing the Charity’s work for the next 400 years.

I wish you all a very Happy New Year and I look forward to working with you in 2019 and beyond.

Victoria Hill, CEO
January 2019

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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