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Meet the Housing Buddies: Kath Menzies

We’ve been interviewing all our volunteer Housing Buddies at the beginning of their involvement with the programme, finding out more about their background and hopes for the volunteering. In our fourth interview, we meet Kath Menzies.

  1. Tell us a bit about yourself – what’s your experience in the housing sector?
    I’ve worked in housing sector for the past eight years. I began my career in Falkirk and have since enjoyed Housing Officer roles in the Scottish Borders, London, Stirling and Glasgow. I have recently returned to Falkirk after a post in London; and I am enjoying being closer to my family. I am a Board Member of my local Housing Association; and am currently undertaking my professional qualification.   
  2. Why did you want to get involved with Housing Buddies?
    I had wanted to do some volunteering for a while, but had not found the right opportunity. In my day-to-day work as a Housing Officer, I appreciate the enormity of the task it is for many who need a new home; or an adaptation to their current home. Sometimes, the task can be even more daunting if there are increased barriers including unfamiliar language or the increasing prevalence of digitization. At work, I aim to have all my tenants and applicants understand completely what their options are; so that they can be empowered to make the choice that is right for them. If I can carry that on outside work; why wouldn’t I!
  3. What are you looking forward to most about being a Housing Buddy?
    I’m a people person – and I’m most looking forward to meeting clients, sharing in their journey as they progress into more suitable arrangements.
  4. Why do you think Housing Buddies is an important programme?
    Housing Options Scotland caters towards disabled people, older adults and veterans. These groups are often marginalized; but in HOS they are at the forefront. In a time of increasing austerity, organisations like HOS are vitally important; and if I can help a little bit so that other staff within the organisation can continue to support as many households as possible, then the Housing Buddies programme really does have an important role to play.
  5. Why is volunteering important to you?
    I understand that helping people, even with the smallest of tasks can make a real difference – and I want to make a difference..

Volunteering at HOS: December Update

In December we have continued to push forward with our Housing Buddies volunteer programme, as well as making further progress with the ‘Online Researcher’ guides we are producing.

We are pleased to have recruited another Housing Buddy, Kath, who is based in Falkirk and ready to get stuck in to supporting clients, as well as helping with some general outreach work too. This month we also held a meeting with our Housing Buddies, Lindsay, Fiona and Shirley to evaluate how the programme has gone so far, and to make plans for expansion in the New Year. Exciting times!

Our intern, Barkat, has completed the first of our ‘Welcome To Your Area!’ guides for Fife and our Volunteer Coordinator, Ben, is meeting two further volunteers in the New Year to get them involved with the project too.

Volunteering at HOS: November Update

This month we have been busy! We’ve hosted inductions for our new ‘Online Researcher’ volunteers, written up a case study about one of our client’s housing journey, supported our Housing Buddies with more cases and even managed to squeeze in holding our Volunteer Celebration event in Edinburgh.

Our Volunteer Coordinator Ben met Tessa, a new volunteer in Edinburgh, and Jay, a new volunteer in Stirling, to discuss the online researcher role. Both Tessa and Jay will be working on the ‘Welcome to your area’ guides in the New Year, and we already have a draft template in hand. We are all excited to see the work they get up to!

Shirley, one of our Housing Buddies, joined Moira (Housing Options Scotland CEO) with client visit in Dundee whilst Fiona, another of our Housing Buddies attended the ‘Communities for a Changing Population’ conference in Glasgow. You can read more about the conference here.

Our ScotGEM intern, Barkat and Volunteer Coordinator, Ben met Housing Options Scotland clients Karen, Colin and family, now the family are settled in their new home. You can read the case study Barkat wrote here.

Finally, at the end of the month, we hosted a celebration event in Edinburgh, highlighting some of the fantastic work we do at HOS, including putting a spotlight on our volunteer programme. At the event we welcomed staff, volunteers, board members and supporters of the organisation, as well as the Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government, Aileen Campbell. You can read more about the event here.

Case Study: Karen, Colin & Family

Our Volunteer Coordinator, Ben and student intern Barkat were happy to meet Karen, Colin and their three daughters late last month to discuss their housing journey and the support received from Housing Options Scotland. Thank you to the family for being prepared to share their story.

Karen, her partner Colin and their 3 children had been living in Govan in their own three-bedroom house. The property was a new build and perfect for their situation at the time.

However, with her young daughter, Alexandra, growing up and requiring extra support to provide for her needs, Karen and Colin were extremely concerned about the future. Lifting and carrying Alexandra up and down the stairs was becoming increasingly difficult and unsafe – especially as she was growing older. Both were fearful of suffering a fall, which would be detrimental, not only to themselves but also to their young daughter. Therefore, the family were looking for accessible accommodation on the ground floor to meet Alexandra’s growing needs and minimise risk of any potential accidents.

For a couple of years, Karen and Colin had been raising and discussing their concerns with the council, social workers, occupational therapists and other relevant departments. Following multiple meetings with Glasgow City Council and city builders, some suggestions about how to extend or adapt the house to meet Alexandra’s needs were given thorough consideration. Ultimately, however, these options were not financially viable. In the meantime, Glasgow City Council referred the family to Housing Options Scotland (HOS) where she was introduced to Olivia, Housing Options Scotland Head of Casework Services. Olivia explained a range of different options available to them, including the LIFT scheme. Karen said:

“Olivia knew a lot about the scheme, and we were given detailed information on how we can qualify for the scheme, the application procedure and how long it would take”

HOS provided guidance and support throughout the process of applying to the LIFT scheme and soon after applying, the family received the wonderful news that she was successful.

“During the process Housing Options communicated with us to check how we were are getting along and it was nice to know that they were thinking of us”.

After looking at few houses, Karen and Colin were able to find “the right accommodation at the right price with the specific adaptions to suit Alexandra’s needs. This all happened within 9 months which was quite quick”.

The family are absolutely delighted with their new home which has a downstairs en-suite bedroom for Alexandra and nicely caters for the needs of the rest of the family too. Although initially quite concerned about moving out of Glasgow City Council and having to move school, the family are very happy now the children are well settled in and especially with Alexandra’s school which has an outstanding reputation.

“People in situation like ours should think outside of the box and take advantage of the help available such as Housing Options Scotland and LIFT scheme as we would have never ever been able to afford the new house ourselves”

Housing Options Scotland: Celebration Event

On Friday 22nd November, we hosted a celebration event in Edinburgh, highlighting some of the fantastic work we do at HOS, including putting a spotlight on our volunteer programme. At the event we welcomed staff, volunteers, board members and supporters of the organisation, as well as the Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government, Aileen Campbell.

Guests heard all about progress with the volunteering programme, and the different projects volunteers are working on – from the volunteer blog and case studies, to follow up calls and “Your Area” guides (read more here).

What was especially exciting at the event was to formally launch our Housing Buddies programme. Guests heard about the progress we have made so far and details about some of the engagements our Housing Buddies have already been involved with. You can read about Housing Buddies on the blog here.

The event also covered other updates about HOS, including the launch of our new website and details about our Military Matters programme too.

Housing Buddies: Communities for a Changing Population

Last week, one of our Housing Buddies Fiona Russell attended the “Communities for a Changing Population Conference” in Glasgow.

The conference was looking at how the built environment needs to become more responsive to the changing needs within communities, including the urgent lack of housing options for younger and older people.

One particularly interesting aspect of the discussion concerned the opportunities for community led housing and also looking at inter-generational living and how that may work as an alternative to retirement homes.

Fiona said:

“It was a stimulating day with lots of food for thought, all helped by excellent chairing and a different approach to conducting a small conference. The mix of participants worked well too and it was lovely to meet people I was connected with in different ways.”

Meet the Housing Buddies: Lindsay Roches

We spoke to our new Housing Buddies at the beginning of the programme, finding out more about their background and hopes for their involvement with the project. In our third interview, we meet Lindsay Roches.

  1. Tell us a bit about yourself – what’s your experience in the housing sector?
    I’m relatively new to the sector having graduated in 2016 and participated in the Graduate Employee Mentoring (GEM) programme at the Wheatley Group. I have worked at Inverclyde Council and I joined Queens Cross Housing Association in January 2019. In 2017 I completed CIH level 4 and have recently become a chartered member of CIH. I’m also on the board of Elderpark Housing Association.  
  2. Why did you want to get involved with Housing Buddies?
    I had wanted to do some volunteering for a while, but had not found the right opportunity. In my current role I deal with a lot of performance reporting, policy and regulation so I wanted to get more front line experience and talk to people who access services.
  3. What are you looking forward to most about being a Housing Buddy?
    Being able to help people with their housing journey where possible and contribute to an excellent organisation.
  4. Why do you think Housing Buddies is an important programme?
    Housing Options Scotland takes account of all sectors and discuses all options available with people who contact their service.  I think organisations like this are rare, which makes staff time limited, and housing buddies is a key way to elevate that but still offer a supportive and excellent service.
  5. Why is volunteering important to you?
    Volunteering is a great way to develop your skills and see things from a different perspective.  It is an opportunity to get to do things you wouldn’t normally be involved in. Ultimately, volunteering is about giving a small amount of time that can make an important impact.