We all know how important it is to have a house that we can call home – the right to adequate housing is even enshrined in the UN Declaration of Human Rights, which says that “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care”. So it’s not surprising that a range of social enterprises are involved in the housing sector, supporting people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Housing associations, housing co-ops and employment projects supporting homeless people back into work are all examples of organisations with a clear social purpose and a significant trading aspect, even though they may not always brand themselves as ‘social enterprises’.
The ‘Housing through Social Enterprise’ project being run in the Faculty of Social Sciences is working with three very different social enterprises to explore how they support people at risk of homelessness. We will be following a number of tenants from each organisation over the first year of their tenancy, to see what impact the social enterprise has on their lives, and whether it affects their health and wellbeing in particular.
The three organisations we will be working with are:
Homes for Good – a Glasgow-based social enterprise set up in 2013 as a not-for-profit letting agency, with the aim of supporting vulnerable households to access quality rented accommodation and sustain their tenancies. The organisation also has an investment arm, which is using social investment finance to buy and renovate properties, which it then rents out to people on low incomes who are at risk of homelessness and/or have a variety of other social needs. Unlike most letting agents, Homes for Good uses some of its income to provide a tenancy support service, helping tenants to deal with managing money, looking after their home, accessing specialist services, or whatever else is needed to help them sustain their tenancy.
Y People – a charity providing a range of support services to vulnerable people across Scotland. We will be working with two schemes run by Y People in Glasgow and South Lanarkshire, which provide a rent deposit guarantee for people who are at risk of homelessness, but are unable to access housing in the private rented sector because they have no savings for a deposit. The schemes provide support to tenants during the first year of their tenancy, helping them to maintain their tenancy and build up savings for the deposit.
NG Homes – a community-based housing association, which provides social housing for a large part of North Glasgow. As well as housing, NG Homes provides a range of support services in partnership with other voluntary organisations, from money advice to community development. It also operates NG2, a subsidiary which provides training and employment for local people.
Over the first few months of the project, we’ve been working with each organisation to clarify exactly how they work and to identify the different ways in which they may have an impact on their tenants’ lives. Crucially, the project aims to understand the specific impact of these organisations as social enterprises and to develop new ways of measuring this impact. It seems obvious enough that having a home is likely to make you feel better than not having one, but the question for this project is whether the involvement of social enterprises in providing housing delivers anything extra. In other words, what it is about being a not-for-profit organisation with a clear social purpose that might enable Homes for Good, Y People or NG Homes to have a greater impact on the health and wellbeing of their tenants.
We’ll be starting the first interviews with new tenants in the next few weeks, so watch this space for further updates on the research over the coming year.
The project is being run jointly with Glasgow Centre for Population Health and is part of a wider research programme based at Glasgow Caledonian University, called CommonHealth. For more information, contact Dr Steve Rolfe, Research Fellow – firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the author
Dr Steve Rolfe is a Research Fellow within the Faculty of Social Sciences and a member of the Faculty’s Public Services and Governance research group. His current research is focused on the public health impacts of social enterprise. This fits with his broader research interests in community participation and what it delivers for individuals, communities and public services. Read more.