By Rooney John
PHASES (People Housing and Social Enterprise Scheme) is a South London based social enterprise charity. Their main goal is to renovate disused properties in South London, using trainees that are marginalised, long term unemployed, ex-offenders or those who have experienced homelessness.
Set up in 2001 the charity was originally called Advocates for Homeless, providing advice and support to homeless people in South London. Speaking about the change of focus for the charity Glen Heaton, project manager at PHASES said: “We focused on advice for about five years then we realised a lot of homeless people had careers in construction and then had drug or alcohol problems and then there were empty properties that could be used as construction projects so putting the two together seemed bit of a no brainer.”
Before starting at PHASES Glenn worked in legal aid advice. He helped people with housing or benefits problems before starting work with charities. He said: “There are a lot of therapeutic positives from working in construction; it’s very good for the head to be doing something physical and hands-on, or some people just want to get DIY skills”.
They also use people who have complex health problems. Such people have found that working on PHASES projects have been quite therapeutic and have helped their problems especially those suffering from mental health issues. The trainees may be involved in up to four individual ‘phases’ in their journey towards secure employment, specialised training or simply a happier life.
The first phase is the initial training, where the trainees can hone their skills in a workshop/training centre environment.
Second phase is where the trainees get stuck in and are given the chance to put into practice the skills they have learned in a real building environment – often a commercial property.
Phase three is where trainees begin renovating empty homes. Any trainees who are serious about entering the construction industry move onto this phase, involving work on empty residential properties, working alongside experienced builders who act as trainers/mentors.
The fourth and final phase is where trainees who have successfully completed phase three are supported in finding their own paid work. Sometimes this could include quoting for work on one of their empty property renovations.
PHASES are a social enterprise because they are looking to reduce their dependence on grant funding, over the near future and replace it with earned income, this brings empty homes back into use and produces a financial return.
William Orjuela, a general builder and electrician from Columbia, has been working with Glenn for five or six years. Speaking about the social enterprise, he said: “It’s been a good experience working with the trainees, to see people come here trying to improve their skills, and for me to pass on my skills is a great thing for me.
“Working for PHASES has been one of the best things that happened for me. They’re great people. Everyone is different, some people pick things up quicker than others, but the most important thing is they enjoy being here and after are happy with their experience and have learnt from it. We want people to be able to improve their lives and I’m happy to support them through that process.”
To find about more of the great work the team at PHASES are doing why not visit their website.
Additional reporting by Michele Keilty.