Today is Shelter’s 50th anniversary, and though we’ve achieved a lot over the past five decades, we’re not celebrating. We’re out campaigning against child homelessness, with street stalls in five different cities and campaign events in all 54 of our shops in England. The country is once again in the grip of a housing crisis and, we’re on the front line fighting it.
Every day since our Founding Day, on 1st December 1966, we’ve campaigned to make sure everyone has a place to call home. Over the past five decades, our fearlessness has secured some great victories – none of which would have been possible without the amazing supporters who share our vision – be they campaigners, donors or volunteers.
Over the past 50 years we’ve also pioneered innovative advice services, helping millions of people struggling with bad housing or homelessness. Our advice services do amazing work and give us a clear insight into housing issues affecting people across the country, allowing us to use this knowledge to inform our campaigns.
Our campaigning sprang from the launch of ‘Cathy Come Home’ – the landmark film that forced the national housing crisis into the public eye. Before long, hundreds of Shelter local groups had been set up and a movement was born. Our tireless campaigning soon resulted in a major win: the 1974 Housing Act. This new law provided housing associations with full government funding, helping them to re-house families like Cathy’s in need. But we didn’t stop there.
What we’ve won
And over the decades, victories have followed. We’ve campaigned, and won, on a broad range of issues within housing: house building, renter rights and the state safety net for people facing homelessness. Listing them all would make a very long blog, but highlights include persuading the government place a duty on councils to help homeless people; and the introduction of the tenancy deposit scheme.
More recently, in 2015 we made sure that private renters are protected from revenge evictions (when they complain about any poor conditions and are evicted as a result), and just last week brought an end to exploitative letting agents’ fees for renters.
It hasn’t always been easy, and some battles have been longer than others. But we never give up. Over the years, despite our best efforts, we haven’t been able to convince governments to replace homes sold under Right to Buy. There’s a critical shortage of social housing, but we’ll never stop pushing this issue with the government. As a result of Shelter campaigning, the past few years have seen housing rise up the government agenda and after years of telling successive government to build more homes, they are acting.
The fight continues
This Christmas, 120,000 children will be homeless. This is the equivalent of four children at every school. It’s a 15% rise from last year. This is a disgrace.
We’re calling on Theresa May to urgently address child homelessness as a priority with her new government. If you haven’t already, please join the campaign here. We need as much support as we can get.
Shelter has grown to be a national movement of people committed to ending bad housing and homelessness, and our work continues. On top of our high-level campaigning, our advice services and in-house legal team have protected countless families from homelessness and millions have been helped through our advice line, website and face-to-face teams.
To everyone within the Shelter community: thank you. Your unwavering support over the last fifty years has achieved phenomenal things, but we’re not done yet. The real celebration will come when everyone, finally, has a place to call home.