You will have to excuse me if I am a little emotional this week. But, I have two good reasons for feeling this way.
The first is that this is a very special week for us at Shelter. Fifty years ago we were founded in St Martin’s Church where last night we held a very special carol concert for our supporters. This event marks the end of a year in which we have reflected on our history, set out our vision for the future, caught up with old friends and gained a lot of new supporters. It has been a year in which we have continued to help millions of people, but also launched major reports, such as the Living Home Standard, and also continued to win major campaigning victories, such as last week’s ban on letting fees.
Secondly I am emotional because my time as Chief Executive of this brilliant organisation is coming to an end. I am incredibly proud to be have been the Chief Executive of Shelter for the last seven years. It’s a job you take on with great trepidation, because when you try to lead this organisation you are standing on the shoulders of campaigning giants; Des Wilson, Shelia McKechnie and many more. It has been a privilege to follow these people and Shelter – as I am sure it will be for many of us – will always be part of my life.
As I have got older (I am only just a little younger than Shelter) I have realised that birthdays change from being about the future to being about the past. It’s easier to reflect on the successes of the past as opposed to the uncertainties of the future. That was the dilemma facing us as we reached our 50th. How could we celebrate, when we are stuck in the middle of a housing crisis, with homelessness on the rise, rents on the rise, home ownership in decline, social housing in decline; every part of the system broken? That is why we decided instead to finish what we started. That’s why we are embarking on a final push, a drive to put ourselves out of business, to use all our effort, our energy, our passion and our commitment to bring to a reality the dreams of our founders. Our aim is simple – we will achieve our vision of a home for everyone.
We know we can`t do this on our own. We know that we need to build a movement as big as the one that we started in 1966. We need a home for everyone to be the mantra that shakes the political system, that forces change, that fixes this broken system; that builds better, more affordable homes, that makes home ownership a dream that can come true for everyone, that makes retirement safe and secure; that makes renting a real choice and puts social housing and a housing safety there for all who need it, for as long as they do. A home for everyone should be the touchstone of a modern society. Over the coming months and years Shelter will strive to make this a reality. Help us to make a home a right for the many, not a privilege of a few.
This Christmas 120,000 children will be homeless. Enough is enough. Help us finish what we started.