Staying in touch

I recently had the pleasure of visiting one of our oldest residents, a very sprightly 103-year-old woman who lives in one of our sheltered housing schemes in Stockton-on-Tees.

The lady, who certainly belied her 103 years, told me she moved into the scheme when it first opened in 1994 and how much she has enjoyed living there.

Her flat overlooks a railway line – the scheme was converted from the old Stockton Railway Station – and she enjoys waving to the train drivers as they go past. When she is not in her flat, she regularly goes down to the communal area where she enjoys playing bingo and attending the coffee mornings with her friends.

I left the lady with a real smile on my face and it got me thinking how easy it is to forget why we do what we do.

As the head of a housing association I understand the importance of ensuring we are run in the correct way and that governance, finance and regulatory pressures all need to be addressed, but we must never lose sight of what we are here to do, and that is provide good quality homes to people in housing need.

I am perhaps a bit luckier that as a small housing association, myself and my senior staff regularly meet our residents, whether it is those that are ‘involved’ in scrutinising our services, attend our annual residents’ conference or, in the case of this lady, presenting her with some flowers on her birthday.

But I wonder how many CEOs, especially those working for the larger housing associations, get the same opportunities?

From time to time, I think we all need to take a step back from our busy working lives and remember that staying in touch with the people who live our homes is the most important thing of all.