In the eye of the winter storm

La directrice générale de North Star Housing, Angela Lockwood, chemisier rouge en haut de la photo, discute avec les résidents de Levick Court de leurs angoisses.  Image : Peter Barron <i>(Image: Peter Barron)</i>” src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTYzOQ–/ HKv51Kmtoy57EDJXg–~B/aD00MTM7dz02MjA7YXBwaWQ9eXRhY2h5b24-/″ data-src=” -/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTYzOQ–/–~B/aD00MTM7dz02MjA7YXBwaWQ9eXRhY2h5b24-/ “/></div>
<p><figcaption class=North Star Housing chief executive Angela Lockwood, red blouse at the top of the picture, talks to Levick Court residents about their anxieties. Photo: Peter Barron (Photo: Peter Barron)

As temperatures drop and prices rise, the chief executive of an organization on the front lines of the cost of living crisis spends a morning assessing the impact on vulnerable people…

HAVING grown up in a village in County Durham, Angela Lockwood knows all about the impact of poverty on communities.

Today, as chief executive of one of the region’s leading social housing providers, she is publicly declaring the cost of living crisis to be the worst she has seen in a career of more than 30 years, its staff facing an “acute crisis”. misery”.

This morning, with winter fast approaching, Angela is on the road to assess the impact of the crisis on the elderly, young people in care, the homeless and women fleeing domestic violence.

“There is no doubt that the situation is getting worse and that the winter is going to be very hard for many of our tenants,” she said.

As well as being chief executive of North Star, Angela is a board member of the National Housing Federation and non-executive director of the Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust, which warned this year that seven million low-income households are going without essentials, including skipping meals or being unable to heat their homes.

In this region alone, 38% of children – more than 37,000 – live below the subsistence level, according to the North East Child Poverty Commission.

Her day of visits to North Star services begins at Levick Court, an independent living unit in Middlesbrough where elderly residents receive safe accommodation and support.

The building is owned by Middlesbrough Borough Council but is operated by North Star, a non-profit housing association which runs 4,000 rental properties and five shelters for women, as well as school breakfast clubs and people with housing issues. Mental Health.

Angela joins some of the residents as they enjoy their weekly coffee morning, chat and wait for the draw to be made to see if they have won the £15, £12 and £10 prizes in the pot .

Much of the conversation is about rising energy and food costs, and Babs Pemberton tells the others about a friend whose grandson just lost his first tooth.

“He got £5 from the Tooth Fairy and offered to give it to his nanny so she could keep the heating on for a bit longer,” laughs Babs.

Support agent Brenda Pugh, who is on site three days a week, sees the crisis starting to take its toll: “A gentleman, who was very proud that he had never failed to pay, came to see me because he was very worried about not being able to make ends meet for the first time in his life. This can have a real impact on their mental health,” she explains.

However, another resident, who is 84 and only wants to be identified as Jean, describes those in Levick Court as “the luckiest”.

“Yes, you have to think twice about what you buy in the shops, but the apartments here are very warm, so I don’t need to expend a lot of energy,” she adds. “We feel very protected from the worst – I did a little dance when I got my flat here.”

In addition to warm and safe accommodation, North Star offers a welfare service to all its residents, with dedicated staff advising on financial matters, including benefits and debts.

The housing association even bought a bingo machine to add to the sense of community.

The next stop for Angela is Rainham House on the other side of the “Boro”. It is a focal point for a network of support services for vulnerable people, including Paul Roxby, 50, left, who found himself sleeping rough after losing his way to drugs.

Thanks to North Star, Paul now has a two-year service designed to be a stepping stone to independent living. He lives in a two-bedroom property, with his rent paid through the benefit system, as well as reductions on his council tax and water rates.

“Sometimes it’s still a choice between being hot or being hungry, but I’m in a much better situation than I was,” concedes Paul.

“The cost of living is getting worse, with the price of everything skyrocketing, and I have friends who are still on the streets. North Star has been awesome for me. It changed my life, gave me the opportunity to find some stability, and I can’t thank them enough.

Paul has come to Rainham House for his weekly meeting with Dianne Eddison, North Star’s service co-ordinator for homeless services, who gives him advice, mostly focused on helping him settle his debts.

“There’s a big, big problem with homelessness in this area and the cost of living crisis will obviously increase the pressure,” says Dianne.

At least Paul now has a chance, and he’s smiling broadly, having just learned that he’s found a job, working 20 hours a week as a supermarket cleaner.

“You’re fine,” Angela told him, reassuringly. “Keep going – you can make it happen.”

Her third visit of the morning is to Parkfield Hall, Stockton, where young people leaving the care system receive supported accommodation on their way to independent living.

They include 17-year-old Amelia Walsh, who receives £60 a week from the local authority for most day-to-day essentials.

Amelia works full time at McDonald’s and rides her bike there. She’s too young to know why, but Norman Tebbitt would approve.

Despite her best efforts, it is still difficult to pay rent and meet the cost of food, so she is one of the beneficiaries of an emergency fund that North Star has set up for tenants – claiming a grant of £30 for food and £20 for his electricity.

The emergency fund was previously £10,000 but was increased to £200,000 this year in light of the economic crisis.

Young residents have recently been put on prepaid electricity meters as some have found themselves in debt.

“The goal was to help them budget better, but you see them running out of money and as a result they have to make a tough choice between staying warm or eating in the dark,” says a speaker, Lisa Dodds.

Nonetheless, Amelia – confident and articulate – knows it would be much worse without North Star’s support.

“I used to do couch surfing, but at least I have a safe place to stay now, and the staff are always there to help me,” she says.

“At the end of the day, I just want the things I never had: a good job, enough income to support myself, my own car and my own house.

“But so far, it’s the closest thing I’ve had to a home in a long time.”

It’s been a busy morning and Angela Lockwood knows full well that the widespread work of the team she leads has never been more vital.


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