Goodbye to Social Housing
It was in early 2012 that I secured my first job as a Housing Officer, or, as the particular company that I was working for preferred to it call it – a Customer Service Partner. I started (and I am about to finish) my housing career with Home Group. Despite working for two other housing providers in between, I recently returned to the organisation’s Reading office and have enjoyed three more great months there.
During my short housing career, I also worked as a Neighbourhood Manager for First Wessex in Aldershot, a Local Housing Officer for Stonewater in Reading, and now back at Home Group, I am a Housing Manager.
Over the years, I have managed more than 2,000 properties across Reading, Wokingham, Farnborough, Bracknell and Basingstoke, dealing with every aspect of housing management possible and across a variety of tenures – leasehold, shared ownership, rented, key worker, intermediate rents, sheltered accommodation and housing for older persons. I have been involved not only with the every day housing tasks (e.g. income management, anti-social behaviour and general estate management) but also some of the meatier tasks, including safeguarding.
Working in social housing has been full of ups and downs and there have been days where I have gone home and not been able to switch off completely. Decisions made during the day have regularly sat at the back of my mind and you can’t help but dwell on the not so brilliant days e.g. the abuse from just a handful of tenants. But it’s these ups and downs that make social housing what it is. There has never been a dull day in my housing career. Every day has been varied and often enough, I achieved something that I was immensely proud of. My proudest achievement was seeing through a management transfer for a victim of domestic abuse – from making that initial safeguarding referral, seeing the affected tenant enter a refuge and then to emerge many months later, ready to start a new life in a new home that I had found for them.
But for those highs, there were no shortage of lows, and I recall vividly going along to an eviction one day, where the tenant – herself suffering with mental health problems – had no idea what was happening. Her very full mailbox suggested that she was avoiding more than just her rent arrears. Unfortunately, it was what it was, and she was to lose her home. She was understandably distraught, absolutely inconsolable and I had serious doubts about whether or not she could manage the four children in her care. Referring the matter to social services and the police (for the sake of her welfare) was absolutely necessary but you come away from such a situation feeling really low, and you wonder where such people end up.
On the other hand, I once identified a reclusive and very isolated tenant, who spent every hour of every day inside her flat with her dog. Several days at a time would pass before she would see or hear from anybody. It didn’t appear a very fulfilling life. Whilst this particular tenant problem didn’t want to be thrown into social clubs or other groups, where she could meet new people, I needed to get her out, and even more so when her dog died. Realising that she had an interest in gardening, I gave her a part of the communal garden to call her own – and encouraged her to do with it whatever she wanted. She was thrilled and got to work on it immediately. It was amazing to see what a difference my small gesture made.
I have mixed feelings about moving on. Social housing is something that I feel I know inside out. I have loved the responsibilities, the opportunities to make a difference (however small) in the lives of some, and I have really enjoyed getting to meet new people. It really is astounding the number of tenants encouraging you to ‘keep in touch’ when you move on, and I will.
The very unlucky Friday 13 January will be my last day as a Housing Manager and then the sky is the limit!