Unlocking the key to good health, education and housing

Keith Anderson, Chief Executive, Port of Leith Housing Association

This is the third year now that all housing organisations in Scotland have been encouraged to share with the public the purpose and value of the work we do and celebrate this on Scottish Housing Day. This year the overall theme is promoting “Housing at the Heart” of peoples’ lives.

I believe that a safe, secure and affordable home is a basic necessity of every single one of us. Sadly, this is beyond the reach of far too many people and for even more people the fear and insecurity of losing their home, or not having one to call theirs, looms large in their life.

As I see it, people and communities require three essential things in order to thrive: good health, good education and good housing. As these basic needs are not being met for too many people and communities, we must continue to work together to identify the best way to address this.

That is why I’m so proud of what we’re doing across the Port of Leith Housing Association (PoLHA) Group. By supporting people to improve their life chances and choices, by enabling more people to live independently in their community and working to improve the overall quality of neighbourhoods, more people are having these basic needs met.

Several examples of the positive impact our work is having on people’s lives spring to mind.

The first one is a woman who has been living in one of our homes for many years. She was lacking confidence and feeling isolated at home. Our Community Works service provided her with tailored training and work experience with us. Now she’s very happily employed as a care worker and planning to undertake a SVQ level 2 qualification in elderly care. She told us:

“I needed to challenge myself and needed some help to get myself back out there. Community Works gave me that help. My life didn’t start at 40 but now it’s starting at 50… roll on 2019, this is my time!”

Another customer who comes to mind approached us when he became ineligible for Job Seeker’s Allowance. With a long history of drug dependency, ill health and having spent time in prison, he didn’t have enough work experience. Over a six-week period Josh undertook training through our Community Works service to improve his interview skills, set his own goals, write a CV, search for jobs online and build his confidence. During this time, he also took up a work experience opportunity with our social enterprise, Quay Community Improvements. He enjoyed the role and following a successful interview is now working on a part-time contract with Quay.

Last but by no means least is Bob. Bob moved into our sheltered housing complex, Hermitage Court, in May this year. Having spent all his adult life living in bed and breakfasts and other unsettled, temporary accommodation, this is the first time in 62 years that Bob has had his own home, and he is over the moon with it.

Earlier this year he developed blood clots in both his legs. This led to his leg being amputated which meant that his previous accommodation was no longer suitable. He was thrilled to get a set of keys to his own home at Hermitage Court which he fell in love with the moment he went through the door.

Bob did not have any furniture to make his new house his home, so our colleagues in our Tenancy Support Team helped him to find furniture and to access the correct benefits.

Bob has told us that moving to his adapted flat has been life changing and that for the first time in a long time he feels safe and able to live his life independently. He also tells us that he loves taking part in all the social activities at Hermitage Court, especially the lunches. In his own words, Bob says he is surrounded by: “Good people who care. It’s the best feeling ever.”

I think he has summed up the difference we make perfectly.

We are focussed on taking this wider approach, connecting individual housing support, health and education needs in our service. It seeks to enable greater self-reliance and independent living and has a positive and lasting impact on people’s lives.

This Housing Day let’s shine a light on the exceptional difference housing associations are making to the lives of people across the length and breadth of Scotland