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The Chartered Institute of Housing is the independent voice for housing and the home of professional standards

My housing story: Rhian James


For National Careers Week 2019, Rhian James, who works for Colchester Borough Homes as part of the GEM (Graduate, Employment, Mentoring) programme, shares why working in housing is so rewarding.

When you are a child, adults will ask what you want to be when you grow up. Many of us will have said astronaut, doctor, teacher etc. No-one aspires to be sat in a dead-end office job that could be easily replaced by an AI system. And I bet no-one says they want to go into housing. Everyone that I have met as a member of the GEM programme has said they ‘fell’ into housing, purely by accident. When I came across the programme, I almost didn’t apply. I had no relevant experience, a degree in English Literature and a passion for people. As someone who had never been a part of the housing sector, I had no idea what curveballs I would be thrown, what pressures the staff are under to make sure people are kept in safe environments and support them at what can be the lowest point of their lives. The staff working in this sector are professionals, but always must consider what issues that person may face when trying to secure accommodation.

I would encourage everyone to follow a career in housing, or even just work in the sector for a few years. In the short time that I have been, my preconceptions have been proven wrong, and my perception of social tenants and council houses has been entirely transformed. On Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, shelter is listed as part of the bottom sect of the pyramid, under Physiological Need. Without attending to this need, Maslow believes that individuals will be unable to reach the next stages; safety, belongingness and love, esteem and self-actualisation. Therefore, housing is a basic need that everyone deserves. To be a part of such a necessary system is extremely rewarding, although very challenging. Part of being in the GEM programme that appeals to me the most is challenging perceptions and debating what the future of housing will look like. A strong knowledge of government policy has demonstrated to me that there are glaring issues that need to be addressed. Alongside my other GEMs, from varying positions and aspects of housing, we are able to use our knowledge to brainstorm innovative ways to help impact the housing crisis.

So far, I have met extremely passionate people throughout the housing sector, and every conversation I have with those people inspires and motivates me to help #bethechange. People don’t always recognise that the housing professionals aren’t just in housing. They are champions of community. They are for some people, the only point of contact where an abuse survivor or someone with desperate need can get the help they require. Join the party, help become a champion of people and hopefully a champion of change for the better. We all deserve love and support, and the housing sector is just one essential part of a wider support system that enables people to be the best they can be.

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