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Opinion: Midlands should celebrate economic recovery but homelessness continues to rise

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Opinion: Midlands should celebrate economic recovery but homelessness continues to rise

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Published by Jon Land for 24dash.com in Housing

Opinion: Midlands should celebrate economic recovery but homelessness continues to rise Opinion: Midlands should celebrate economic recovery but homelessness continues to rise

By John Shah, head of business development, Trident Reach the People Charity

With business leaders getting together in London today (Wednesday 5 March) for the second ever Birmingham Day, it’s crucial that the contribution the city’s charities make to our economy is also highlighted.

At Trident Reach the People Charity, part of Trident Social Investment Group, we are the ninth largest charity in Birmingham - one of 2,400 registered charities in the city striving to provide opportunities for residents across the area. Our group houses around 6,000 people in 3,500 homes across the Midlands and manages £150 million of housing and community assets.

As a charity, Trident Reach whole-heartedly supports Birmingham Day which is being hosted by three local MPs at the House of Commons to celebrate the crucial role our city is playing in our country’s economic recovery.

But, with the theme of the event being the importance of niche manufacturers and speakers representing some of the region’s top industries, we’d urge the power players attending the event to also consider the social value our city’s charities provide by supporting our most vulnerable residents.

While the politicians are marking Birmingham’s triumphs, I’d like to remind them that the West Midlands has become a national hotspot for homelessness, with a 28% increase in figures in the past two years. The most vulnerable people in our communities need the support of organisations like Trident Reach and our voluntary sector partners.

In 2011/12 just over half of lettings made by Trident Social Investment Group were made to homeless applicants – a fourfold increase on the number a decade before. As part of Birmingham Day we need to make sure we celebrate the development of each of these individuals in making a successful transition to independent living.

But there’s also a financial value to the work of organisations like ourselves, and we’ve developed our own model for calculating the social investment return to the local economy from our group’s work. We forecast that in 2010-12 the social return from our housing and associated support work was £2.9m.

In addition, we can demonstrate the monetary value of volunteering. Last year more than 70 vulnerable people – former Trident Reach customers – were involved as volunteers in our charity’s services. If they were paid Birmingham’s living wage of £7.60 per hour, their contribution would equate to £691,600 worth of investment in the local economy.

And using the same model we know that one of our projects for the homeless - which has provided homes to 50 ex-offenders at risk of becoming rough sleepers in the past two years - has provided a social return of at least £190,000. In fact every £1 spent on the project has generated a return of £3.20.

On ‘Birmingham Day’, I’d also like the politicians and business leaders gathering in Westminster to acknowledge the challenges we face, such as the effects of the need for Birmingham City Council to make £88.4m of spending cuts. Trident Reach and our voluntary sector partners will continue to do all we can to protect the most vulnerable people in our communities and ensure they remain part of the success story that is being celebrated today.

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