The HWR project is run by 1 full time caseworker, Hayley Kemp, and is funded by 9 Housing Associations and Plymouth City Council. The project provides a casework and support service for BME tenants, particularly around racial discrimination and harassment. It also provides support around homelessness, allocations, securing and maintaining tenancies, resettlement support and budget management. Referrals are received from housing providers and the police, but a larger number of referrals come from individuals and other agencies, where instances of race hate crime and/or housing support are presented. In the year 2009 – 2010 the project dealt with 85 case loads which was a 50% increase from 2008-2009 and 100% increase from the year 2007-2008. This is both a negative and positive in that it demonstrates people still need support accessing services, but the positive is that people are accessing and using the project more. The casework and advocacy work was mainly around supporting clients in accessing housing and homelessness which made up 35% of the case load and supporting tenants suffering racial harassment which made up 25% of the case load.
On a more positive note we provided bespoke training to tenant’s groups and representatives which raised awareness around BME communities and challenges faced by these communities as well as what tenants’ groups might do to become more inclusive. The project was also promoted through attending community events and helping facilitate BME consultation events on behalf of housing providers, including hosting an event by Plymouth City Council and Plymouth Community Homes to explain the process of change over from PCC to PCH.
Once a year the Housing with Respect organises a young people’s event to coincide with the Respect Festival and these have been really successful. The first year a group of young people were invited to stay overnight in the National Aquarium and was excitingly entitled ‘Sleeping with Sharks’. The second and third event was ‘Sailing in the Sound’, when we took 30 young people sailing. The young people who go on these activities do not know each other and often come from different housing associations. The events give the children a common and exciting agenda and give them the chance to meet other BME youngsters and to share some aspects of their own culture, as well as learning about the backgrounds and experiences of other children.
The day was a success and the evaluation from the young people themselves was positive – ‘I made some new friends’ – ‘I want to take up sailing now’. This is testament to the ability of activities such as these to bring young people together as both a group and a team, and to give the opportunity to relate issues such as diversity and equality to them in framework which makes sense.
The HWR project is needed more than ever in the current climate – at present there are 5 million people in the UK on housing waiting lists. As research has shown that BME individuals are 3 times more likely to be homeless, this places them in an even more vulnerable situation.