An Ipswich charity for the homeless focuses on action
23/08/2019 - Ipswich Housing Action Group
In an increasingly challenging environment for charities Ipswich Housing Action Group, often known as IHAG, has appointed Adrian Rawlinson as its Communications and Marketing Manager with a simple brief, he says, “To put the charity on the map”.
Adrian is known to many in the Suffolk business community from his time as Commercial Director for the EADT and Evening Star, as publisher of the Essential Suffolk magazine and more recently as Head of Marketing and Communications for St Elizabeth Hospice.
Adrian told us “Ipswich Housing Action Group was set up in 1976 to meet the growing need for housing and other services for single homeless people in Ipswich. For over 40 years we have been brilliant at fulfilling this brief, but sadly not so good at letting people know what we do. There is a growing need for our services to support increasing numbers of homeless people, or people who are in danger of becoming homeless, but like all charities we need to increase the financial support we receive to meet these present and future needs.”
“Homelessness is an issue that most people don’t think could affect them but the reality is that anyone can become homeless. The break-up of a relationship, the loss of a job, failure of a business or illness are all common themes we see where individuals, who thought they were secure, have found themselves surprisingly quickly without a home to call their own. Homelessness is not all about the ‘few’ people rough sleeping on park benches, it is the hidden homeless that are the real issue and the big numbers. Each year we help over 3,000 people and this is where a great deal of our work is done, not only helping homeless people but preventing homelessness.”
So what have your priorities been since joining the charity?
“One of my first tasks was to find out what people did and didn’t know about us so I decided to speak to as many people as possible. I conducted hundreds of street interviews across 13 locations in and around Ipswich in July and I was pleasantly surprised by some of the feedback. What became very clear however, and a big issue for us, was that people didn’t actually know what the charity was called. For years we have used the shorthand of ‘IHAG’ to talk about ourselves and in doing so had hidden one of our key benefits. The A in our name stands for ACTION not association as many people thought. As well as providing our core services of money advice, supported housing and The Chapman Centre, our walk-in day advice service, we are renowned for campaigning and fighting for the homeless, not just our clients but anyone who could be affected. It is this element of ACTION that really elevates our contribution to issues around, and solutions for, homeless people.”
“The second issue we identified from the research was that our strapline of “The key to an independent future” wasn’t helping people understand what we did, or who we did it for. We tested a few alternatives but the one that really resonated with the public was “Fighting for the homeless, and against the causes of homelessness.” Very much a Ronseal “it does what it says on the tin” approach. Helping people to live independent lives remains our central ambition, and it is what our work everyday achieves, but it will no longer be used as our strapline.”
So what is next for Ipswich Housing Action Group?
“In terms of the awareness of our charity we are starting from quite a long way back” Adrian explained. “Our social media audiences are currently small, although now growing, and our physical presence around town, outside of the delivery of our services, has been minimal. People can expect to see me and the charity out and about a lot more in the coming months, and I’m inviting anyone who wants to come in and see what we do to visit us. We are a small but very special charity that makes a big difference to a lot of local people’s lives. I have always believed in supporting causes that make a visible difference locally and Ipswich Housing Action Group is definitely one of those.”
Adrian at Ipswich Housing Action Group can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org
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