#HousingDay2019’s focus on community investment prompts Jackie Logan, Resident Engagement and Communities Manager to take stock of Soha’s investment in homes and communities
Soha’s vision is to be a leading community housing association where residents and staff shape a sustainable future. To give residents and staff more influence over the future of the organisation, Soha became a mutual in 2017. This ownership structure enables residents - and in future potentially staff and community members - to become shareholders and so play a greater part in shaping Soha’s services, priorities and community engagement approach.
Throughout our history we have thought of ourselves as a community landlord, and been meaningfully involved in the communities in which we are present. As a mutual, we want to strengthen that presence and resident engagement. Underpinning this is a long-standing and fundamental commitment to work with our residents to build their capacity to lead in their communities and act as spokespeople for Soha.
Through our Members, as well as our residents, we want to help create communities that flourish; places where people feel safe and that they belong; neighbourhoods and estates where individuals and families can thrive.
Our new Communities Strategy highlights Soha’s identity as a mutual housing association, our vision and role in our communities, and our approach to and process of community engagement.
Our vision is that, with our support, local communities will be able to:
- Exercise power: we want to consciously shift power to our communities, sharing decision-making and control as far as possible. We want to do whatever is needed so that everyone can play a full part in the things that matter to them.
- Hold others to account: we hold ourselves accountable first and foremost to the communities and people we exist to serve. We want to empower communities to keep us -- and also the other agencies, organisations and service providers that play a part in their lives and their wider communities
- Be connected: we want to see people broadening and deepening their connections with others, bridging the divides that span our communities and investing in a new social infrastructure.
- Trust, in us and others: we will devote the time and resources necessary to building trust; earning trust by staying true to our values and standing up for them, and trusting others with vital decisions that affect them. We want to build trust within communities by enabling people to work together to transform their communities.
As part of the Together with Tenants campaign we see this activity as central to our purpose and meaningful to our residents and their neighbours.
Welfare reform, employment and Soha’s Launchpad project
Soha has a Corporate Objective to ‘Support residents and communities to thrive’. We support our residents to gain confidence though 1-1 support, training, volunteering and moving towards employment or getting a job.
Soha has invested in interventions and services that meet residents’ needs. We support tenants with upskilling (training & gaining qualifications), moving on to higher paid employments and coping with budgetary constraints.
So far this financial year Launchpad has supported 78 Soha residents. 31 people have gone on into employment; 14 people have moved closer to employment thought mentoring and confidence building 3 people have started to volunteer; 5 people have attended training and 2 have moved into formal education.
There is a clear case to help address unemployment among tenants and within their communities. Activities around tackling worklessness need to continue to add value and have the greatest impact possible. The increase in employment or increase in employability skills benefit the whole of an estate or community, regardless of whether or not the main recipients are our tenants or other people living in the area.
Housing First project – tackling homelessness
Soha is using our stock for homeless people with complex needs through the new Housing first project,. With South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC), we’ve established a pilot to identify the impact on homeless people, the community and the public purse We are jointly funding the initiative and have commissioned independent evaluation to show that the model is transferable in a semi-rural area not historically associated with homelessness.
As a Homes for Cathy member, Soha is committed to working in partnership with SODC to tackle homelessness, and our residents are fully behind this project and want to see us make a difference in their locality.
Cllr David Rouane, cabinet member for housing for South Oxfordshire District Council, said: “South Oxfordshire District Council is delighted to be working with Soha and Aspire to help some of the district’s most vulnerable residents. Housing First provides a stable, supportive environment for former rough sleepers to rebuild their lives."
Why Aspire? Because it's an award-winning employment charity and social enterprise in Oxfordshire which is providing the specialist support. It helps vulnerable people facing challenges - such as homelessness, poverty, addiction, offending histories or mental health difficulties - to move into the world of work. It harnesses intensive, holistic support to address each individual's complex needs and make significant, positive changes to their lives.