Concerned by the sight of people sleeping on the streets of London, Tony Denison (pictured left), whose background was in Construction, was convinced that the industry could do something to address the situation. It was 1991, the economy was in recession and the central London office sector was suffering which meant that there were more empty commercial properties in the capital than usual. And yet there were people sleeping out on the streets.
He was sure that, with the right approach, property owners could be persuaded to loan their properties to become temporary emergency shelters for the capital’s rough sleepers. He also hoped that the construction sector could contribute its skills and products to re-fit the properties as shelters which it did. Realising the importance of delivering expert quality services to homeless men and women, these shelters were run by homelessness charities.
The call for CRASH’s services rapidly grew beyond temporary cold weather shelters. Before long, homelessness charities were asking for CRASH assistance with day centres, hostels and supported, move-on accommodation. And the demand was not just from London-based charities. CRASH received requests from all over the country as word spread about the help it could provide. It was realised that whilst these temporary cold weather shelters provided a vital resource, homelessness was an all year round issue, therefore services needed to be available to rough sleepers 12 months of the year.
Where we are today
CRASH is a team of five full time staff and has 29 Patron companies whose annual donations underpin the charity and every project it undertakes. With approximately 20 “active” projects at any one time, CRASH continues to channel the expertise, products and generosity of the construction and property industry to create places that care for people.
This collaborative way of working was recognised in 2014 by Downing Street with a Big Society Award. David Cameron, who was PM at the time, said: “The innovative approach CRASH takes harnesses the world-class skills and products of our construction industry to tackle the issue of homelessness. This Big Society award recognises the remarkable achievements of everyone involved.”
Whilst this acknowledgment of the industry and its charity CRASH is rewarding, more importantly it serves as a reminder that by remaining true to foundations and keeping focussed on what we do best it can – and does – make a lasting difference to the most vulnerable members of our society.
There are a number of parallels between homelessness and hospice charities, one being that both sectors aim to help people when they are at their most vulnerable and another that their buildings are key to the services they deliver.
Working with hospices as well as homelessness charities means CRASH and our Patron companies will be able to help even more vulnerable people as well as their families and the staff and volunteers who care for them.