When is a house a home?

We here at Link UP have always been extremely lucky. Two lovely houses over the course of our lifetime have given us the nurturing environment we need to flourish. In essence, two lovely business locations have become two homes.

The Katherine Low Settlement, our first home, hosts well over a dozen local organisations, all of which seek the advancement of positive social change. Located just off Battersea High Street, this historic building has always been a champion of altruism, due to the directive of the people between its walls. Link UP’s second home, Battersea Arts Centre’s Scratch Hub, supports the growing team at Link UP and the expansion of our services into Lambeth[1]. The Scratch Hub, as a home, is saturated in an energy that inevitably comes with a co-working space; an energy that can be channelled back into the communities that created them in the first place.

Across Wandsworth and Lambeth, 70% of vacant, authority owned property is unavailable to rent (46% of vacant property being empty for over 6 months).[2]

Any Londoner will know that there is an inherent problem with space. One only has to think of the stories of the cupboards converted into bedrooms, unapologetically offered to renters to understand this. In an increasingly space-less world, where any space that does remain is regarded purely as a commodity, the future of a secure and comfortable home for all seems bleak. Even families with stability, in the traditional sense (i.e. they are in full time employment), are at the mercy of a crisis in housing. The resulting situation of a housing crisis for those who are already on the margins of societal support and those that are hidden from this support is even worse. Homelessness is a direct symptom of this crisis, with rough sleeping a crux point between a myriad of crises; lack of space being fundamental to the crisis.

What is the culmination of rising house prices, of the ending of assured shorthold tenancy, of the refusal to give up space, and changes in the welfare system? And in what ways is the housing crisis being tackled?

Temporary housing is often not fit for purpose, wrongly sized for the families that look to call them home. The very concept, “temporary”, is enough to induce stress and anxiety, let alone the struggles that come with a living situation that wasn’t made by choice.

 “On a daily basis, we see families of 7, 8 children in one or two bedroom flats crammed and with nowhere to go!” – SpaceMax

Tackling the issues of space in housing and overcrowded temporary accommodation across London, is no easy task. One local organisation devoted to this cause is SpaceMax, who exist “to help families that feel hopeless in their home environment”. Currently being supported by a Link UP Volunteer to nail down operations through a review of their business planning, SpaceMax seeks to alleviate the effects of overcrowding and cluttered living space, through practical hands on support.

SpaceMax is run entirely by the support of volunteers and once the organisation has helped towards turning a house into a home, those who have been supported usually want to get involved as a result. SpaceMax loves their community, and is supported by a network of plumbers, carpenters, and electricians.

“Children suffer in this situation without having space for themselves or to do their homework. Creating space for them makes a huge difference in their lives” – SpaceMax

The organisation is grounded through a simple concept: how do we make the most out of the space we are left with? Those involved with its creation experienced overcrowding in their own lives, actively seeking a solution to the problem at hand for themselves and others. When a situation can feel unmanageable, there are ways to make it manageable. It is, essentially, about getting on with it. SpaceMax creates the support network and provides the skills needed for many families across Wandsworth to get on with it. An efficient home is an efficient mind, and, in a space-less London, it’s the direct action of organisations such as Spacemax that make all the difference.

SpaceMax are currently in the process of creating a website, please check them out on Facebook for more information, or to get involved.

https://www.facebook.com/spacemaxw/

[1] Link UP London now works across the boroughs of Wandsworth and Lambeth.

[2] Local Authority Housing Statistics data returns, England 2016-17,[https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/local-authority-housing-statistics-data-returns-for-2016-to-2017]