Charity in Focus: Giroscope

Published: Tuesday 19th December 2017 by Courtney Farrow

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This week’s charity in focus is Giroscope, which is dedicated to turning empty houses into attractive homes.

We caught up with Martin Newman, Charity Co-ordinator, to find out more about this fantastic project.

Firstly, can you tell us a little bit about the work you do?

Primarily, we locate, purchase and renovate empty properties that are otherwise going to waste. Part of this process is engaging volunteers who are mostly long-term unemployed individuals. These include ex-offenders, people with mental health problems, and those with learning difficulties who are struggling to get back into work.

We then let these properties to people on low incomes and who are in need of housing. The charity has both an employability and a rehousing strand to it.

We believe three key things: everyone is entitled to somewhere that they can call home, everyone should have access to meaningful work and be fairly rewarded for that work, and no one should feel isolated from their community for reasons of poverty, homelessness and prejudice.

When did you first establish?

We’ve been going around thirty years now. We set up in the mid-eighties as a group of students and young unemployed people who wanted to take action to resolve their own housing situation. The founding Giroscope members purchased their first house by using their Giro cheques for a deposit.

As well as this work, we are also part of the wider umbrella of Self-Help Housing, which is a network of housing projects, policy makers, organisations and politicians across the UK and Europe. We share ideas, start new projects and have a powerful, collective voice on current issues around housing and regeneration. We work closely with the local authority to find solutions on empty homes.

Why do you think the Self-Help Housing model is important?

Well, I think it’s vital for several reasons. Giroscope is a crucial lifeline for people who are otherwise quite isolated in their community. Working with us and learning new skills increases their chances of employment later down the line.

We provide training and on-site experience in most aspects of the building trade. On top of this, our volunteers can access Level 1 and 2 maths tuition and English lessons, along with computer literacy sessions. It can really boost the confidence of people to apply for jobs, too.

We have a whole range of projects, not just renovating houses. We run a bicycle and computer fixing scheme where we service and recycle old bikes and computers. Meanwhile, we also have a plot of land that is used as a community garden.

This allows individuals to have a wide choice of activities. After all, doing up houses isn’t for everyone. Some people have a go at several different things.

You can see the incredible work of Giroscope and find out how you could get involved on their website

Photo: Mark Harvey of ID8 Photography

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Published: Tuesday 19th December 2017 by Courtney Farrow

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