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Since being launched at the beginning of the summer, the Homes at the Heart campaign has reached over 4.3 million people on Twitter and been shared by a range of politicians. It's also had national media coverage in the Times, on Channel 4 News, and LBC radio. 

Now, the organisations behind the campaign plan to boost support for #homesattheheart in the run up to the government’s spending review in the autumn. They're doing this through a series of themed weeks that will shine a spotlight on how homes can be at the heart of recovery. The themes are:

  • Homes at the heart of a stronger economy 
  • Homes at the heart of making ends meet
  • Homes at the heart of living well
  • Homes at the heart of a greener country
  • Homes at the heart of settled futures
  • Homes at the heart of prosperous communities

We've shared lots of news and information to help highlight the importance of quality housing and housing services, and the role it will play in the nation's recovery post Covid-19. We helped generate support for the campaign by sharing our customers and colleagues thoughts on housing - during lockdown in particular, a time when many of us were asked to stay in our homes for long periods of time. 

Thank you for your support and please read our blogs for each themed week below. Together, let's show the government and the nation that we have #homesattheheart. 

A blog by Evelyn – Homes at the heart of prosperous communities

The world we are living in has certainly changed for all of us and forced us to work differently and to care more for others, particularly those who are most vulnerable. The Community Development Team at Wolverhampton Homes (WH) has certainly changed in terms of being physically out and about in the community.  I can honestly say during the last six months we have engaged with more people than we would have ever expected, particularly those who are housebound and unable to get out for a variety of reasons.

WH has been working very closely with the City of Wolverhampton Council in identifying a great number of vulnerable people from a diverse background. This was a huge task that was undertaken at the start of the lockdown measures back in March. Together we called over 3,500 vulnerable people, most of whom were over 60 years old, to identify if they needed help in any way. The referrals made were either for food parcels, collecting prescriptions, if they had money problems, signposting them to our Money Smart Team and more. Some customers were able to get hot meals delivered to them weekly and others were just grateful to have someone to speak to and to know someone was looking out for them. I know I shouldn’t have enjoyed the task of phoning people, when the world seemed like it was in such an awful situation, but it really helped lift my spirits, knowing that I had potentially made someone’s day. You could hear by the end of the phone call that residents were less worried, and I liked knowing that they could sleep that little easier. The Community Development Team also made additional calls to people who we know well in the community, who have been a big part of our careers at WH. We learnt that there were many people within the community that needed support, regardless of age, and we were there to help them where we could. Sometimes those I spoke to would even help put my mind at rest when they asked how I was coping!

The compliments everyone received throughout this period were truly too many to mention. We found that people were generally overwhelmed and very grateful for all the different ways in which they were supported during this time. In fact, most people were taken by surprise by the way many of our teams took the time to pick up the phone and check in with customers.

One example that sticks to mind is, a particular tenant I met prior to lockdown who was very vulnerable. He was extremely lonely and had no family around him. He was an amputee so had an added disability as well as other underlying health conditions. A referral was made for a variety of reasons and he joined our Befriending Service, as he just wanted to receive a phone call from time to time. As I had met him before, I decided to call him weekly to ensure he was ok. There was one occasion when I called him and he was very unwell. He had spent four days in bed. He tried calling his doctor, at first he couldn't get through and was then told to drink plenty of fluids, which he did, but he was still not getting any better. I then called his doctor and managed to get a telephone appointment the same day. The paramedics were called out to him urgently. It turned out that his leg was infected badly. He was treated at home and had to make regular visits to the clinic thereafter. This was the period in which not many people were admitted to hospital as they were already overwhelmed. He has been extremely grateful and continues to call me his ‘guardian angel’. He said that through these calls, they helped him a lot and may have potentially saved his life.

As we go into potentially one of the most difficult winter periods, I am confident that the team will continue to support those most in need to the best of our ability. I am also sure that as an organisation that cares for the community, WH will support us to do that as well. In the meantime, I would hope that we will all stay safe and continue to show our most caring side as we battle on. The silver lining in such a horrible period, both personally and for the community, is that I really do feel that I have a stronger bond with vulnerable residents in the city. A bond that perhaps wouldn’t have been created so deeply if it wasn’t for the situation. Please, carry on staying safe, being kind and looking out for one another.

A blog by Callum – Homes at the heart of settled futures

Hi, I’m Callum and I’m a Specialist Support Worker for the Housing First initiative at Wolverhampton Homes (WH). I’m passionate about working with those that are vulnerable within the community and to help them build a sustainable future. Each customer has a unique experience and will therefore require specialist support; I do my best to create a holistic approach and make sure all options and services are available. Over the past year, I’ve helped a customer called Simon. It hasn’t been a straightforward journey, but nothing worth having comes easy and I’m so pleased with the outcome for Simon. He’s worked hard to create a new life for himself when it could have been so easy to turn back.

I started to engage with Simon who was, at the time, rough sleeping in a tent. He had been homeless for approximately four years. Simon was always very polite, but he was also very guarded, and it was clear he didn’t have faith in benefits and services. At the time Simon was having several encounters with the Police because he was begging for money outside the local shops. I helped Simon claim the benefits he was entitled to and explained that this would reduce his need to beg. After some persuasion, he agreed to explore these benefits, but he still wasn’t interested in any temporary accommodation.

As Simon had a live benefit claim in place I was able to start placing regular bids on properties for him, in the areas of his choice. Simon and I were in contact daily, about different support services that were available to him. I would check in on his wellbeing and sometimes it was nice to just have a chat. He finally agreed to go to a service that supported him to overcome his drug use, but only if I attended the meeting with him. Of course, I was happy to help. After a few successful and unsuccessful appointments, as some of them Simon didn’t feel comfortable in, we were able to get a prescription. This was a big step in his recovery from drug addiction. At a similar time, we found a property match for Simon and things were looking up. I worked closely with the Lettings Team at WH to kickstart this new chapter in Simon’s life.

Simon continued to engage well with us and the drug service. He was looking forward to his new home. Unfortunately, it was bad timing as the country had gone into lockdown and I was unable to see Simon face to face anymore. I then had to explain that there had been a slight delay to his home, as it needed work and contractors weren’t allowed on site. Simon became increasingly agitated by this and unfortunately our relationship broke down.

Simon continued to disengage, and he wouldn’t answer his phone to me. But I didn’t give up. I knew that with a bit more support Simon could be in his own home and that it was simply just an unusual time. I managed to contact him through our partners at Outreach to reassure him that the property was still his and as soon as it was safe to do so, the repairs would be complete, and he would have the keys to his new home.

I was so happy we were chatting again. He was comfortable in temporary accommodation for a little while but didn’t stay long as he preferred being left alone, which was exactly what he was able to do living in a tent. Due to the situation around coronavirus, the Homeless Services Team at WH were quick to set up emergency accommodation for the homeless, where there was onsite support. Simon didn’t feel comfortable as he didn’t want his temperature taken and returned to his tent. It took a lot of perseverance and eventually I was able to locate temporary accommodation where Simon could have his own space.

Simon is now drug free and has provided several clean drug samples to prove it. He is engaging with Healthy Minds for support with his mental health and he continues to engage well with all services. He’s even made new friends from attending Narcotics Anonymous and his life is back on track. Simon was also informed that he could move into the property that was originally offered to him prior to lockdown. He decided on a different area to live in due to a change in circumstances, so I worked hard to get a more suitable home allocated to him where he would be happy. I’m so pleased he is now settled into a home, drug free, got his own bank account, looks after his money, looks after his health and even enjoys doing a weekly shop!

Simon is very proud of himself and recently caught up with the team, he said:

“I can’t believe how far I have come since working with Callum and the team. I struggle to trust people and have worked with many agencies over the years, but Callum is one of a kind. A genuine person that kept persevering with me. I could really tell that he cared for me and my future. I will forever be grateful. He saved my life. I’ve now rebuilt relationships with my family, have a place I love to call home and I’ve never felt better.”

A blog by Chris – Homes at the heart of a greener country

Hi, I’m Chris and I’m the Waste and Environmental Compliance Officer at Wolverhampton Homes (WH). I’m responsible for advising WH with regards to its legal responsibilities relating to waste and environmental legislation and the development of our Environmental Management System (EMS). The EMS is designed to identify environmental risks associated with WH activities, products and services and manage these risks through the implementation of processes, procedures and environmental strategies. I’m passionate about creating a greener city for our residents and looking after future generations to come.

We are proud to work towards a greener country by doing our bit and recycling as much as possible. We have a new Waste Recycling Hub onsite, which includes a hazardous waste compound, that is now used by all our Trades Teams. I also help to train colleagues regarding their recycling habits, supporting them so they know they are recycling responsibly, and this ensures that our hub doesn’t get contaminated.

Other main aspects of my role include undertaking Environmental Audits that are carried out throughout the year. I need to monitor, create reports, update trackers and work with teams across the business to review their environmental and waste responsibilities. I work closely with our voids, repairs and asbestos teams; as you can imagine, working for a housing management organisation, we carry out a lot of works and it’s my responsibility to ensure we are undertaking these activities in a sustainable manner. Other main projects include the development of our Carbon Reduction Strategy, which focuses on reducing our organisational carbon footprint because of our energy usage, fuel usage and from the homes we manage. I also help to analyse our energy trend and Energy Performance Certificates to look for other opportunities for efficiencies and areas for improvement.

I really enjoy my role as although it may seem like a lot of number crunching, research and keeping an eye on departments to ensure they are environmentally compliable, I know I am making a real difference in the community. Homes are at the heart of a greener country, as many of us are lucky enough to have a roof over our heads and it’s important we continually improve our homes and communities in the most environmentally friendly ways we can.

A blog by Glenford – Homes at the heart of living well

Hi I’m Glenford, I’m a Housing Assistance Officer working within the Home Improvement Agency. The work I do is to support mainly home owners to remain safe and independent in their homes for as long as possible. I’m passionate about highlighting the impact a suitable home has on the customer. I help to deliver an excellent and professional service and support our customers to access and receive services. Overall, ensuring residents maintain their independence.

Each working day for me is varied. I have to work flexibly in order to best serve our customers; working from hospital sites, co-located offices as well as visiting clients in their own homes. I receive referrals for home improvements which could include adaptations, major improvements such as roofing or electrical work, heating grants, repairs to support hospital discharge or even minor handy work. I support our customers in many ways, this can be by accessing grants, loans and services to supporting them with completing forms such as the Disabled Living Service application.

I work very closely with Social and Health Workers. I was part of a pilot scheme to help integrate with those teams using one office, which worked so well that it was rolled out across the city. I attend many team meetings, many now virtually, where we discuss how to support clients to the best of our ability. We need to ensure housing conditions are kept high and suitability is considered. We also work closely with GP's supporting them with customers whose health is impacted by their housing conditions. On a recent case, I helped a customer overcome their severe hoarding issue. This can have substantial risks to health and fire safety. Before undertaking work to address the physical condition of the home, we ensured that the client was engaging with Mental Health Services. I also worked with partners such as Social Workers and Wolverhampton’s Hoarding panel to serve our client as best as possible. I really enjoy going above and beyond for our customers, giving them the best possible experience so they can remain safely in their homes.

I recently helped a customer who had difficulty accessing her rear garden as she was unsteady on her feet. I am a Trusted Assessor and identified she would benefit from some additional steps and a handrail for her garden. I was able to refer this to the Independent Living Service for access to the Disabled Facilities Grant. Another customer needed a full window replacement where I ensured she was able to access a Small Works Assistance Grant to fund the work. On every occasion, I ensure that there is a holistic approach to supporting our customers – helping them to live well in the community.

I am out and about in our communities most of the time - doing site visits and assessments. Before the pandemic, I attended lots of community groups, GP surgeries and events publicising the work we do. Helping to build relationships in local areas so that I can understand how they can also support each other.

Wolverhampton Homes is committed to a 'one city' approach to provide for our residents. This means that we have great relationships with local suppliers that I am able to turn to for advice on cases. It's especially useful for home repairs and adaptations.

On a final note, during lockdown I wanted to do that little extra for my community and assisted with the voluntary shopping initiative. At Wolverhampton Homes we pride ourselves in being customer focused so when this opportunity arose, I wanted to do my bit and found it really rewarding.

Thanks for reading and I hope you’ve enjoyed having a small insight into housing assistance. Housing is more than just bricks and mortar, we support and encourage residents of Wolverhampton to live well. #OneCity #GivingSomethingBack

A blog by Nadine - Homes at the heart of making ends meet

Hi I’m Nadine and I’m the Money Smart Manager at Wolverhampton Homes. We are committed to supporting tenants that have run into financial hardship and need help budgeting, accessing benefits or paying their rent. We are passionate about helping the community, knowing that the work we do goes a long way in aiding those in need to make ends meet and keeps a roof over their heads.

As you can imagine, we have been particularly busy during lockdown. The team went from receiving 40 to 50 referrals a week to around 70 a day. We were speaking to people not known to us that have never missed a payment and have now lost their jobs and really need some support. Every referral is treated as importantly as the next one and we must assess each situation differently. We really don’t know people’s issues until we have them on the end of the phone. This means there is no set time that a call can take, so it was literally all hands-on deck, pulling in as many colleagues from different areas of the business to go above and beyond for when residents needed us most. The way we work has adapted from face to face to being able to fulfil about 99% of our role over the phone and online.

I was and still am doing everything I can to help customers. Sometimes this is just signposting to claim Universal Credit, for others it is food parcels they need as they couldn’t or can’t get out and for some it’s more intensive ongoing help that they require. Throughout the lockdown period, my team supported 2,145 tenants through the Money Smart service and we really do feel we’ve helped so many families, giving them the financial lifeline to recover after coronavirus. Although it isn’t over due to furlough payments changing, we will always be here to provide guidance and support on an individual basis. I take pride in knowing that I’m making a real difference in our communities.

A blog by Sally - Homes at the heart of a stronger economy

Hi I’m Sally and I work for Wolverhampton Homes in the Click Start Team. We are passionate about building a stronger economy and understand the need to support customers with not only a home, but by unlocking people's potential through skills and technology. My team in particular help those that struggle with IT get a little more tech savvy. I see it as an almost springboard course into the opportunities that can be opened up by using a smart phone, computer or the internet in general. Knowing how to browse the internet opens up a host of benefits such as finding or looking for a new job, keeping in contact with friends and family (especially during lockdown), applying for benefits tenants may desperately need and much more. This is especially important now the benefit system is online and people need access to their online portal to communicate with their job coach/job centre.

A tenant I helped recently, Jon, was over the moon with the support he received. He found a job, is now on top of his finances with online banking and managing his finances independently. Getting a job was a top priority for Jon as he was nearing retirement age and had never experienced long periods of unemployment. He had also registered his car as sorn with the DVLA and getting a job meant he now had the money to put it back on the road. This helped him get back in touch with family and friends.

During the pandemic we have been unable to see our participants, but we have kept in touch with them. We have been offering advice, making referrals for the Money Smart service or other support services and providing employment support such as CV writing via email and over the telephone. I am all about helping other people especially at a time of need such as during this pandemic where I also volunteered at the food hub. This was of as much benefit to me as it was to them as it got me out the house, got me moving and feeling happier and healthier!

We are now in a position where we are venturing back out into the community. I recently met a customer who called me distressed that his garden strimmer had stopped working and he wanted to see if Wolverhampton Homes loaned out any tools. I said leave it with me and together, using social media we did a shout out and managed to seek out a free brand-new strimmer that was his to keep. He was ever so grateful as he expressed he was not able to afford one brand new or second-hand. Why do I write this you may ask? It is to show that with Click Start, we are merely not just about digital training we also aim to offer a service where we help in anyway that we can. I feel the need for our service is growing even more as this pandemic has struck our economy. People need the skills to get online and we're always happy to help! 😊

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