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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.

Meet the Housing Buddies: Fiona Russell

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 this interview, we meet Fiona Russell.

  1. Tell us a bit about yourself – what’s your experience in the housing sector?
    I started off as a trainee in a local authority housing department then moved to Scottish Special Housing Association and subsequently worked for what is now Trust Housing Association. I had always been involved in training and education and after my first child was born I became increasingly involved with the housing programme at Stirling University. Eventually I became a permanent member of staff and stayed there until I retired in 2013. I have been involved with a number of housing associations over the years as a voluntary board member; that has always been challenging and fulfilling.
  2. Why did you want to get involved with Housing Buddies?
    I had reached a point where my housing association involvement was coming to an end. I didn’t want to relinquish that part of my life altogether but I wasn’t really up for getting to know a new organisation, its people and issues all over again. The request for Housing Buddies came at the right time and felt like something I could usefully contribute to without spending hours pouring over board papers and wondering about what might be about to overwhelm an organisation.
  3. What are you looking forward to most about being a Housing Buddy?
    Being useful and being able to use my housing knowledge. Continuing to develop my understanding of the housing sector.
  4. Why do you think Housing Buddies is an important programme?
    It makes complete sense for a small organisation to maximise staff time by using volunteers to undertake some tasks. Avoiding lone working by having a buddy alongside allows staff more flexibility when meeting people who struggle with getting to public places.
  5. Why is volunteering important to you?
    I am very involved with my local church as Treasurer and looking after the maintenance of the buildings. It is great to have other involvements, building on other areas of skill and knowledge as this brings perspective, other challenges and a sharing of ideas.

Volunteering at HOS: October Update

This month we have supported our Housing Buddies with their first cases, made plans for a further 3 case studies, planned an exciting event for November and organised meetings with potential volunteers who will be writing up our local area guides. A busy month all round!

Susan and Fiona at the first Housing Buddies case

Our Housing Buddy, Fiona, accompanied Susan, one of our brokers to a client visit in Bridge of Allan (pictured). Lindsay, another Housing Buddy, went to support a client in Paisley who was having her property valued and our third buddy Shirley was able to support Karen, our Military Matters broker, with some information about homelessness services in the West of Scotland. As we move into November, we already have a client visit set up in Dundee for Shirley to support Olivia and we have also planned a Housing Buddies meet up later down the line in December.

Our Volunteer Coordinator, Ben, is working with our student intern, Barkat, to produce an area guide for Fife to support clients once they have moved property into the area and Ben is also due to meet a new volunteer who is keen to help write a guide for Edinburgh. Watch this space!

We are hosting a volunteer celebration and launch event at the end of November where we will be formally announcing lots of the projects we are working on and sharing updates. Look out for that in the next update!

Housing Buddies: Client Meeting

Susan and Fiona in Bridge of Allan, before the client visit

Last week, Housing Options Scotland broker, Susan Mendelovitch and Housing Buddy, Fiona Russell, visited one of Susan’s clients in Bridge of Allan.

The visit was to meet the client and discuss their housing options, reflecting on the different properties available in different areas, and what would suit the client best in the long term. Susan led the discussion with the client but benefited from being able to lean on Fiona for support – she offered her local and professional knowledge about housing in the area.

Susan said: “It was wonderful to have the support of a Housing Buddy on a recent home visit with a client.  I always believe that two minds are better than one!  It was great to have someone with such a vast range of housing experience and local knowledge with me to support me during the visit.  Fiona also asked my client questions that I had not though of asking and overall contributed to the home visit in such a positive way.”

Fiona said: “I did enjoy the visit and appreciated being able to offer some local knowledge to help the discussion.”

We are looking forward to seeing more ‘Housing Buddies’ visits come to fruition soon!

Do you have professional knowledge about housing and are looking for a flexible and supported volunteering opportunity? Join the Housing Buddies team and contact Ben, our Volunteer Coordinator, at