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Dorrie’s Story

Dorrie is a retired veteran aged 73 years old. She had previously worked as a Communications Centre Operator in the Armed Forces and was living in Leicestershire when she approached Housing Options Scotland for help. Born in Scotland, she wanted to move back home and needed support to do so.

Dorrie had been living in Leicestershire with her Siberian husky, Midnight, when she began to have problems with a neighbour. She raised these with the housing officer, but the problems persisted and she felt unsafe at home. Dorrie said:

“I felt threatened and intimidated – I didn’t like to even go out into the garden. I didn’t feel comfortable at all, it was horrible”

At this point Dorrie started to think more about moving back to Scotland – it had always been in her plans, but given the problems she was experiencing, now seemed like the right time to make the move:

“I went to see the Doctor in March because I was starting to get panic attacks, depression and anxiety because of my living situation. I spoke to counsellors who helped me lots, but I still needed to move. I’d had enough of living there and that was when I knew it was time to move back to Scotland”

Dorrie began to make plans to move but didn’t know where to begin:

“I wasn’t sure where to go or who to speak to, so I thought I’d start at the top. I emailed Nicola Sturgeon’s office who promptly got back to me and said ‘Have you tried Housing Options Scotland?’. It all kicked off from there really!”

Dorrie made contact with Karen, Housing Options Scotland Military Matters broker. Karen helped Dorrie with the move, explaining the things she should consider and putting her in touch with different people who could help. Dorrie said:

“Thanks to Karen it was an easy process, even throughout COVID. She gave me contacts for all different Housing Associations and even offered to attend property viewings with me – you can’t get better than that!”

When thinking about her new home, Dorrie just knew that she wanted to find somewhere where she could feel safe:

“I wanted to feel secure, to know I could go out my front door and into the garden and not feel intimidated. I thought that if I could get home to Scotland, things would be better. I went to look at a place in Kilmarnock in January which was lovely, but it just didn’t feel like home. I also looked in the private rental sector in a nearby village to where I am now but it was too expensive”

At this stage, Dorrie was beginning to feel anxious:

“There were times when I thought it was never going to happen. My son was fantastic and he kept reassuring me that something would come up but I was worried and just hoping it would happen before I had a complete nervous breakdown in my bungalow in Leicestershire”

“It was then suggested I should try speaking to LINK Housing Association directly. Karen helped me get in touch with them and I told them about having a Doctor’s letter to support my application. Then my friend suggested I try get in touch with my home county – Perth & Kinross. Within a week of doing so, I got a phone call offering me a bungalow back in my home village!”

Dorrie was asked if she wanted to see the bungalow in person but that wasn’t possible because of COVID-19. Instead, she asked for pictures to be taken and sent to her.

“I saw the pictures and did some research into the specific area. I’d seen one of the bungalows several years ago and knew they were lovely. I had a good feeling about it all so I said yes – now, 7 weeks later I’m moved in!”

Sadly, Dorrie’s Siberian husky, Midnight, passed away just before the move, so she is in the process of adopting another dog in Scotland. It seems like her new property will be perfect and she’s excited to share it with her new husky too. Dorrie said:

“I feel settled now and I just look forward to making new friends and catching up with old ones too. Being up here and with a dog – you couldn’t ask for more. I’m excited and can’t wait to take my husky for walks in the countryside.”

Thinking about the whole move, Dorrie had the following advice for anyone in a similar situation to herself:

“Come to Housing Options Scotland! Honestly, Karen was so helpful and everyone was so nice. I couldn’t have asked for any better help – they really went above and beyond! Don’t give up hope – there is something out there for you, and there is someone to help too, if you only ask. To quote sir Harry Lauder: ‘Keep right on to the end of the road!’”

A conversation with Lindsay Roches, volunteer Housing Buddy

As part of Scottish Housing Day, our Volunteer and Engagement Manager Ben spoke to Lindsay Roches, one of our volunteer Housing Buddies, about her experience working in the sector and volunteering with Housing Options Scotland.

Ben: First and foremost, tell me a bit about yourself!
Lindsay: I was born in Edinburgh but I now live in Renfrewshire with my partner. I have lived in different places, including in Perth where I went to university. I studied social sciences at the University of Highlands and Islands, based on my love of history and politics. I now work for Queens Cross Housing Association in Glasgow.

Ben: Did you always want to work in housing? What path took you to where you are now?
Lindsay: I always wanted to do a job which helped people – I wanted to work in something which is about making connections. At university I studied gender, sociology, politics and history but housing wasn’t ever mentioned –  I kind of fell into it as a career, in a way. I know that’s what everyone says in interviews but it’s true! When I left university, I thought I wanted to become a researcher looking at crime, so I applied to all kinds of different organisations in the field but I kept getting setbacks. I kept applying for jobs and then I saw the Wheatley Group graduate scheme.The application asked about your personal values and qualities rather than just your experience which I liked, and the job itself seemed like a great learning opportunity. I joined the research and development team there working on various projects, and the programme took me to lots of different places over the year, introducing me to the world of housing. I completed my CIH Level 4 with the scheme and once I finished at Wheatley, I joined Inverclyde Council for a year. I learnt a lot there – mostly about what I wanted do with my career– and I then joined Queens Cross Housing Association (QCHA).

Ben: What sort of a role do you have at Queens Cross Housing Association? Do you have other experience in housing?
Lindsay: I work in performance and service improvement so my role is mostly ‘behind-the-scenes’. I prepare board reports, provide complaint training, send returns back to the regulator and work on service improvements within the organisation more generally. It’s possibly not where I expected to be, but it also seems to be where my strengths lie – I’ve learnt to be a good project manager, able to take ideas and bring them to life. Outside of my work at Queens Cross, I’m also a board member at Elderpark. I joined a couple of years ago after encouragement to do so when I was with the Wheatley Group. I didn’t know much about boards then so it’s been good to learn lots about governance issues there which are really important in the sector.

Ben: You’ve been volunteering at HOS for just over a year – why did you want to get involved?
Lindsay: This time last year I’d been working in housing for a few years and I thought to myself “What else am I doing? What more can I do?”. I started looking for volunteering opportunities and saw the advert for Housing Buddies with HOS. The role seemed to give me more interaction with people and I thought that HOS looked like a good charity to be involved with. It struck me that HOS was a small organisation doing big work, making a difference on the ground. This is quite a contrast to some larger organisations which seem to be much bigger, but somehow do very little “work”! A few people had said that they knew Moira (HOS CEO) so I thought that this could be a good option for me. I came to meet you for coffee and when we met, it was kind of like I already knew you! You were welcoming and open for ideas and discussion. It was easy to slot into the organisation and everything felt open to me. As a volunteer it feels like there’s plenty of room for us to make suggestions about the programme and that’s a really positive thing. Moreover, the volunteering is flexible and only demands as much time as you’re able to give it.

Ben: Can you talk a little bit about what you’ve been up to with HOS – what sorts of things have you been involved with as a Housing Buddy?
Lindsay: The work itself tends to be small tasks supporting clients on a personal level – things which the brokers can’t always find time for, but which make a difference to clients. For example, my first engagement was going to help a lady when she was getting her property valued. The client was needing to sell because of financial worries and her husband was unwell. It was a stressful time and she was struggling to cope. We all know from personal experience that to arrange an appointment is a chore, so for me to able to to do that and just offer that extra bit of support by being there when it was happening made a huge difference. I met the client just before the appointment, made a cup of tea and had a chat about what she’d been watching on television. We discovered that both of us had a love for Downtown Abbey which we could talk about, and that helped her to relax before the appointment. She was lonely and vulnerable so providing that human touch to the support we could offer went a long way. As well as appointments like that, I’ve been to a couple of events representing HOS and I’m also making contact with some clients to gather information about their circumstances for the brokers. It takes me a few minutes to give clients a call to clarify things or collect missing information which is crucial to their case, but which the brokers might struggle to find the time to chase and collect themselves. I’m also helping clients to fill out applications for social housing and I’m conducting some research with another volunteer, Tessa, into the provisions in place to support people with learning disabilities to apply for social housing. I’ve been busy!

Ben: Can you tell me a bit more about what you enjoy most about volunteering, and why you think it’s valuable? Has it been the same or different to what you expected?
Lindsay: I do a lot of background work in my job so I enjoy volunteering as a Housing Buddy because I get to work more closely with clients. I’ve enjoyed being able to see the impact I’m making with clients 1-1. Every person who comes to HOS  for help has a different story, and – though it might sound selfish in a way – I think there’s something I can learn from each of them. When I think about my career, I think about how I  can carry those stories with me to help shape the way I work and think about people when making decisions. Volunteering is the best way for people to support an organisation or the sector they are interested in, and to gain experience.

In terms of whether it’s been the same or different to what I expected, I guess I didn’t have too many expectations in the first place! I knew it was a fledgling programme,  but that’s what attracted me to it! It wasn’t an old, stale volunteering programme which someone thought up years ago, and where there are lots of caveats about what you can / can’t do. I’ve enjoyed having the free reign to plan my time with the volunteering as I like it, and I’ve been excited to see where we’ve taken the programme over the past year.

Ben: Have you thought much about the future? What’s next for you?
Lindsay: 
I want a career in housing and I want it to be a part of who I am. I don’t like this idea that we are distanced from our jobs – work is part of our life and we should be participating in it, not just doing it. All the extra stuff I do – including volunteering as Housing Buddy – is to help me make the biggest difference to those who need help. I’m in housing for the long haul and I want to work to make people’s lives better in whatever way I can.

Promoting our “Your Area” guides

We were pleased to see our “Your Area” guides featured in Scottish Housing News this week. Read the article below or on the Scottish Housing News site.

Housing charity Housing Options Scotland has extended its house search support to include help beyond home finding. 

The charity helps disabled people, members of the armed forces and older people to find homes. With a team of brokers, volunteers and directors, the charity looks to find the Right Home in the Right Place. Once placed in their new homes, the charity identified the need for a little additional support in getting settled, and so they have worked hard to produce guides with essential information about their new living area.

However, recognising the practicality of this resource, the charity has decided to make the guides available to all members of the public.  

Moving house can be a challenging experience for anyone; securing a rental contact or purchasing a  property just marks the beginning. 

Housing Options Scotland’s clients are offered comprehensive support in the housing search process, with a ‘Housing Buddies’ scheme, and with dedicated case workers to oversee each stage. However, the charity became aware that more support was needed beyond obtaining the home.

Moira Bayne, Housing Options Scotland CEO, was keen to help further. She said: “It’s a very involved process finding the right place for a client, and we wanted to produce something practical to help with their integration into their new living areas.” 

The area guides were born: a practical online guide listing all you need to know when moving house, including a housing check list, local services, leisure activities, and key contacts. It covers everything, from debt charities to contact should you need them, to practical housekeeping, such as locating your gas meter.  

The information for the guides has largely been compiled by volunteers, who are key to the charity’s development. Volunteers are assigned a county, then set out to find out all that is essential to know about the region, and extract the vital information from large local authority websites.

The guides had to be produced with sensitivity. Paula Cleary, who researched for the Renfrewshire and Renfrewshire guides, commented: “We had to think carefully about the client group of people, and their vulnerability, and wanted to give them enough information to follow-up, but not by spoon-feeding them.” 

The guides contain a good amount of information, but everything contains links and hyperlinks, so the client will be engaging with the services themselves; knowing where to go on a council website for example.

Ms Cleary added: “Rather than actually telling people about things, the guide allows the clients to retain their independence, and just talks them through who they need to contact and where to find their details.”

When the distribution of the guides was being discussed, it was decided at board level that rather than only being promoted to the charity’s clients, these guides should be available to anyone who needed them.

Moira Bayne added: “We are a housing charity, and though our focus is primarily in aiding our clients to find a home, we want to extend our help to anyone who might need it: these guides are a fantastic resource for anyone moving house, and we would like as many people to use them as possible.” . 

There are currently four completed guides, which are available to view online. Housing Options are working to produce guides for the remaining 28 local authority areas. The guides are all available to view online here.

Housing Buddies – Case Study

In this case study, our volunteer Housing Buddy, Shirley Watson, writes about how she supported Housing Options Scotland CEO, Moira Bayne, with a complicated case in Dundee/Perth. Here’s what Shirley had to say:

My name is Shirley Watson. I retired from full time employment with West of Scotland Housing Association as a Senior Development Officer in December 2017. Prior to that, I spent 18 years working for Scottish Homes / Communities Scotland / Scottish Government initially as a PA / Office Manager and progressing to Development Officer / Investment Officer and ultimately Community Regeneration Officer. In total I have spent 28 years working in social housing.

Since joining Housing Options Scotland as a volunteer Housing Buddy in Autumn 2019, I have been involved with various cases, supporting clients and brokers. I have provided both telephone support to clients and personal support to brokers on client visits. The case I would like to highlight is one which I worked on with Moira Bayne in November 2019 through to January 2020.

This case focussed on a 36 year old man with particular needs. He had originally been living with his mother in Perth but due to his condition, found himself resident in Strathmartine Hospital, Dundee for the past 9 years. He had been on delayed discharge for some time. His mother believed her son was able to support himself in his own home and approached Housing Options Scotland to realise that goal.

I was asked by Moira to accompany her to an initial meeting with the client’s mother where we learnt that the mother had moved from Perth to Invergowrie to be closer to her son and was seeking a home for him there. Apart from supporting Moira, my role was to find out which local housing providers had suitable property available. I did this by contacting the local Scottish Government office who helpfully provided a list of current developers in the area. Following on from this, I accompanied Moira and the client’s mother to a meeting with Perth & Kinross Council to discuss the client’s needs and suitable accommodation options. It was a positive meeting with various options left with the client’s mother for consideration.

The particular challenges faced in this case were:

  • That the client did not wish to return to live in Perth but his care package was to be provided by Perth & Kinross Council;
  • That the client’s mother wanted him close to her in Invergowrie, but suitable properties are thin on the ground there;
  • Managing expectations on the availability of a suitable property when the client and his mother were desperate for the client to move out of Strathmartine Hospital into his own home.

I believe my support was appreciated as I was able to use my experience in the social housing sector to support Moira in obtaining relevant information to progress the case, and to provide a realistic time-frame for any possible housing solutions from the social housing sector. Given Covid-19, the case is still on-going but I hope that a resolution is found soon.

About the case and support received from Shirley, Moira Bayne – Housing Options Scotland CEO – said:

“ “2 heads are better than 1, a problem shared is a problem halved” – these may be clichés but they very accurately reflect the experience we all have with our fabulous Housing Buddies. It’s a privilege to be able to get their expert opinion, advice and company. Thank you to Shirley for her help in particular, with this case.”

New volunteer: Abdo

We are pleased to welcome a new volunteer to the team, Abdo. Abdo is based in Dundee and will be working on one of our “Your Area” Guides for us. Here’s a little more about Abdo:

My name is Abdo and I am in S6 studying at Harris Academy in Dundee. I moved to Scotland in 2016 – before then I lived in England. I classify myself as athletic and I play football in my free time. I decided to look for a volunteering opportunity which I can accomplish during weekends, so I conducted a search on the internet. I was pleased to find the online researcher opportunity with Housing Options Scotland (HOS) advertised on the My World of Work website. I contacted HOS and received the necessary induction sessions.

I am looking forward to working with HOS to contribute back to society and support disabled and older members of the community. On a personal and academic level, I am planning to pursue further education and to continue to university after school. I believe this volunteering opportunity will polish my research and writing skills and will help me to gain further experience in gathering information and producing reports. I believe this opportunity will introduce a new structure and level of commitment to my life.

Volunteer team review provisions for people with learning disabilities in social rented sector

Our volunteers Lindsay and Tessa are conducting some research into the provisions in place to support applicants with learning disabilities across Scotland’s social rented sector. We were happy to be featured in an article with Scottish Housing News:

The volunteer team at advice charity Housing Options Scotland are conducting research into the provisions in place to support applicants with learning disabilities across Scotland’s social rented sector. The volunteers are contacting housing associations across Scotland to find out what support is included in their allocation policies to help people with learning disabilities access housing.

The team have conducted an initial review of the allocation policies of different housing associations, but want to hear from as many housing associations as possible to find out more about the policies and practices in place across the sector.

Moira Bayne, Housing Options Scotland CEO, said: “We know from experience that some of our clients find accessing social housing tricky – especially so if they have a learning disability which makes tasks like filling out application forms more difficult. We want to find out more about what housing associations are doing to make that process easier for applicants.”

Volunteer Lindsay Roches added: “At first glance, it seems like some housing associations do reference supporting applicants with learning disabilities in their allocation policies, but this varies across the sector. We want to find examples of good practice to share.”

Tessa Brown, a second volunteer working on the project, said: “If any housing association is working on this, we’re really keen to speak with you. It might be that your team offers support to fill out application forms, or that you offer priority to applicants with a learning disability, for example.”

If you work in a housing association and have provisions in place to support applicants with a learning disability, please contact Ben Parker on ben@housingoptionsscotland.org.uk or 07394566633.

New volunteer: David Tait

We are pleased to welcome a new volunteer to the team, David Tait. David is based in Renfrewshire and will be working on one of our “Your Area” Guides for us. Here’s a little more about David:

My name is David, I am 26 and I work for an insurance company. I studied Law at Glasgow University and have done a variety of jobs since then. In my spare time, I like reading and going on walks in nature.

I want to volunteer for the HOS because I think it’s a great charity! I have done a lot of volunteer work in the past, including at the Citizens Advice Bureau and at the Scottish Refugee Council. I enjoy giving back in whatever way I can – I think helping someone find a new home would be one of the most rewarding ways to do that.

I think the guide is important because it can be complicated and stressful moving house. There are so many things to consider – from council tax to bin collections – and to have it all in one document would make people’s lives a lot easier. This information is spread all over the internet and it can be inconvenient to locate it all, especially if you aren’t used to browsing the web. I am looking forward to writing the guide about Glasgow – it would be useful to brush up on facilities near me and interesting to learn new things about my home city.

New volunteer: Shanice Machio

We are pleased to welcome a new volunteer to the team, Shanice Machio. Shanice is based in Stirling and will be working on one of our “Your Area” Guides for us.

Here’s a little more about Shanice:

Hello, I’m Shanice and I live in Stirling. I am from Kenya and I came to Scotland to study for my masters. Being new to Scotland, I wanted to learn more about the area I’m living in so I was happy to discover that I was able to join the Housing Options Scotland volunteer programme.

I am an online researcher volunteer – my task is to write area guides to assist people when moving to a new city. In my free time, I like to take walks – I’m aiming for 6km a day, taking a different route each time to help me learn more about my area.

Volunteering at HOS: June update

This month we have been working hard to develop different parts of the volunteering programme – especially with our Housing Buddies. As COVID restrictions begin to lift we’re excited to see more of our plans come to fruition, and to see the impact of the work of our volunteers as we help even more clients.

Housing Buddies

Our Housing Buddies team met online to discuss a strategy for our activities coming out of lockdown. We’re planning on giving talks to different groups across Scotland to publicise our work – perhaps even all the way in Orkney! – and we’re also working on developing a process to support clients fill out application forms for social housing. We have also put measures in place to integrate the volunteering with our internal processes more, and the volunteer team now have space to collaborate on projects together, using the HOS shared drive.

Online Researchers

Within the online researcher team, we’ve seen Paula complete another guide this month – this time for East Renfrewshire. Great work!

Learning Disability Research

We have been making good progress with our research into the allocation policies of different housing associations and provisions in place for applicants with a learning disability. Tessa, Lindsay and Ben met online to discuss how to progress the research and the findings so far are interesting. More to follow!

Housing Buddies plans!

Our Housing Buddies – minus Anne! – with Olivia, ‘Head of Casework Services’ and Ben, ‘Volunteer/Engagement Manager’

Last week, our Housing Buddies met online to discuss several different projects we are keen to launch over the coming months:

🏠 When it is safe to do so, we’ll be hoping to get out and about delivering talks about HOS to different groups across Scotland;

🏠 We are hoping to set up a “Get help with your social housing applications!” appointment system, where clients can book time with our buddies to go through their applications with different Housing Associations;

🏠 Our research into allocation policies and provisions for applicants with learning disabilities will be getting a boost, as some of our buddies are keen to give a hand there;

🏠 We’ll be looking at finding ways of assessing the impact of COVID-19 on our client base together by completing a study/survey with our clients;

🏠 And, of course, we’ll be continuing all of the usual casework support our Buddies are involved with.

Lots of exciting plans being made – watch this space as we see them come to fruition in the coming months! 🏠💚