Throughout my lifetime I’ve lived in quite a few different places. My family moved to South Africa for my Dad’s work when I was a child and we spent 8 years there. During those years I went to boarding school, did national service, and lived in places that were minutes away from all sorts of wild animals!
When I moved back to the UK I lived on an estate in Sheffield for a while and a few years later found myself living in a freezing cold caravan for a short time. That was tough.
Not one of those places gave me anywhere near the level of security that living in social housing has given me for the last 25 years. The absolute best thing is knowing that as long as I pay my rent, I have a safe and secure place that I can call home. I have a few health conditions now so it’s a massive weight off my shoulders to know that I won’t suddenly be thrown out – especially as I have no family close by.
In terms of the stigma that can be associated with social housing I’ve personally been fortunate enough to never experience it, but I have been involved with See the Person (was Benefit to Society) and I’ve championed the messages of that campaign since it first came about. And things feel different now. For the first time it seems like tenants are being listened to in response to stereotypes, and things do seem to be moving in the right direction.
We’ve still got work to do though. I think the thing about tenant voice is that you have to keep on getting it out there. It’s no good letting it go quiet for a couple of months, because people forget. My message to others who might be on the verge of getting involved, or might want to share their story, would be to please try it. If you don’t give it a go, you’ll never know what impact it could have. I’ve been involved in all sorts of roles at South Yorkshire Housing Association and I’ve loved every second. So take a leap of faith – make contact with your associations and see how you can get involved. Don’t sit back and do nothing because we are the ones with the insight. We’re the tenants, and we’re the ones who can, and do, make change.