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36 | THE VOICE OCTOBER 10-16, 2013

BUYING

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RENTING

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LIVING

OCTOBER 10 -16, 2013

25 years in existence and still going strong, residents tell The Voice how this housing association transformed their lives

I

was 5 months 2 weeks pregnant when I moved into Ekaya Supported Housing on the 4th of May 2009. I hardly would say I was well and active like other teenagers during pregnancy as I had a series of health issues. I thought I should share my experience with you. As a result of my health problem, I had to visit the hospital three times every week and spent several nights in the hospital. It got to a point I thought I could not cope any longer but then I was encouraged and supported by my family and my house manager that gave me strength and hope not to give up. I was induced on the 7th of August 2009 and my family was anxious as anything could go wrong due to my poor health. But anxiety turned to happiness, as a healthy baby boy was born earlier than my expected delivery date, he weighed 2.9kg. The news of my baby’s birth spread from London to Ghana. My family in Ghana could not wait to see the baby. At that point an emergency plan was put in place to take the baby to Ghana. While in Ghana, I witnessed an old friend of mine give birth at the hospital. I could see the difference between the two countries and I realised how very lucky I am. Finally it was time to return home. I was sad to leave my friends and family behind. Back in the house, the support and encouragement continues. Thank you Ekaya.

L

iving in supported accommodation has given me a deeper understanding of what living alone would entail. Many skills are needed such as budgeting, savings, cleaning cooking and keeping in with your child’s daily routine. All these things will contribute to the smooth running of the household. I also enjoy the feeling of community within the house as all the girls get along well, take part in conversation and occasionally get together in cooking sessions. I like to know that if I need anything I have friends around me to help, and so will try to the best of my ability to replicate the same feeling of community in my own house. Time at Ekaya prepares us to move on, and deal with neighbourhood disputes, challenges and shows us how to resolve issues - it’s a way forward to things that might be expected in the future. All the answers cannot be achieved due to time and changes in human behaviour. However, supported living has prepared and channeled my mind for future expectations towards moving on into the community. Ekaya Housing Resident.


OCTOBER 10-16, 2013 THE VOICE | 37

Ekaya Housing Association still doing the BME community proud... Jackie Adusei, CEO (left) and Minal Goswami, Chair, Ekaya Housing Association (right), on managing one of Britain’s oldest black and minority ethnic housing providers Housing providers

“We continue to pride ourselves as being support providers for teenage parents,” Jackie Adusei

By: Jacqueline Asafu-Adjaye Sponsored Features Editor Why has Ekaya stood the test of the time, where others have not? JA: Ekaya prides itself as a niche provider of housing and support services offering services to a predominant group of BME single women and has remained true to its cause. Ekaya offers a specialised and essential service and has sustained its mission to support the needs of the BME community in South London. We had the crash of the titans with fall after fall of BME Housing Associations in the 1990s. Tell me where you were and your gut reactions when you learnt that Ujima had its plug pulled? JA: This news of the demise of Ujima came as a blow not only to the BME community, but also to the Housing Sector as a whole. For the BME community, there was a sense of fingers being pointed implying BME associations are poorly governed. Within the housing sector there was an obvious sense of nervousness from partners working with BME associations, albeit for understandable reasons, given this sudden blow. In the height of the recession of 2008, finance became expensive and, with banks re-pricing

finance to fund existing and new business, there was an obvious air of uncertainty looming amongst us all as austere times hit. Nonetheless with all these pressures, Ekaya was able to adapt a visionary strategy to reach its 25th Birthday and now beyond. We’ve gone from over a 100 active BME Housing Associations to around 64 in 2013 - what is the future for BME Housing Associations? JA: The recent recession as we have seen, has forced a lot of associations to restructure their business, resulting in a high volume of redundancies within BME and non BME associations. Again, with the need to do more with less, some BME associations took the opportunity to merge/partner or strategically align themselves with non BME associations resulting in the reduction. Although this is disappointing, the option may have been that our customers may not have received the high level of service if the association continued to struggle to maintain its BME status. What is the future for BME Housing Associations? JA: Housing Associations are in the business of providing a good service to its custom-

ers; faced with stark choices the test would be whether the association would be able to maintain a good level of service if it remained independent. Do BME Housing Associations still have a role to play within the vision of community cohesion? Or are they divisive? MG: It goes without saying that community cohesion is key to a stable community. Small BME associations like Ekaya, offer a personal type service to its customer and take the added value services which most organisations would shout from the roof top about as ‘business as usual’. Generally, small associations have limited resources, and do not have the capacity to promote their services in the way bigger organisations can; this is why some view small specialised organisations not as favourable as big ones. But believe me; if such organisations go tomorrow the impact will be harsh. Do you worry about the impact of spending cuts to the sector? MG: We worry about the agenda, but on the same note, we support the argument in that it should pay to work. We promote our customers to be active in the community and be good citizens, so the reform is good

news. The concerns we have are the implementation, process and risks to Ekaya should the system used nationally to implement these changes fail and impact on our business. We are concerned to note that the development grant has shrunk and to get a look in as a small BME is hard. What about the bedroom tax has the Coalition got it right? MG: Housing is a public scarce commodity and with that in mind, we should promote for individuals to be adequately housed. However, we believe flexibility should be applied where this occurs, where cooperative tenants who are actively seeking to move, maybe through a monitoring system, are given a period of time exception. There are all sorts of concerns this raises; time will tell. What accounts for Ekaya’s success? JA: Commitment, energy, positivity and dedication; without these key ingredients, success would not have been possible. Additional factors are not being afraid to make difficult de-

cisions and believing in what we stand for. What does success look like for Ekaya’s in 5 years’ time? JA: An Ekaya in every country … (laughing), no, Ekaya going from strength to strength, to create a legacy of success, to develop the next generation of BME leaders and maintain a business we can all be proud of. Governance, what role does that play for the future of BME Housing Associations fall or rise as a movement? MG: I have taken my responsibility as Chair seriously, maybe a bit too seriously, but at the helm of the organisation, I am committed to ensuring continued improvements - one of our key strategic objectives. Ekaya is a great organisation, and I am proud to have led it over the last 5 years. The Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) recently appointed you to their Vulnerable and Older People Advisory Group - does this mean that equalities are still very much on the agenda for the Agency? How do you tend to

contribute to its ambition? JA: This appointment is a fantastic opportunity to promote the importance of Vulnerable Adults services nationally; to allow me to personally help shape and influence the agenda to support for funding and improved housing standards for housing for older people and vulnerable groups. Being from a different background and ethnicity from most of the group members allows me to share my experience of working within the BME community, permitting me to plug such gaps. My passion to provide good quality housing services for these groups I am sure will be an asset to the group.


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