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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

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Charity boss invests in major drive to fight homelessness

This news post is 10 months old

Common Ground Again Homelessness has already raised more than £400,000 to buy properties for those most in need

She has spent her working life helping others – and now charity boss Helen Carlin is using her own retirement fund to provide housing for vulnerable people.

Carlin is chief executive of Edinburgh-based homelessness charity, Rowan Alba, and founder of Common Ground Again Homelessness (CGAH) – a project that buys properties for those most in need of housing.

Last month, CGAH launched a community share offer to raise funds for a new property in Edinburgh.

The project needs £650,000 to buy and convert a building in Edinburgh city centre into a nine-bedroom home for life for homeless men in the city.

Investors can pledge as little as £500 and as much as £100,000 – receiving an estimated 5% interest on the shares.

And now Carlin, 58, is sacrificing a cosy retirement for the sake of others – investing £30,000 of her own savings into the project. The investment represents a third of Helen’s entire retirement pot.

She said she wanted to use her retirement fund to support homeless people and enable them to live a more secure life too.

“I wanted to put my own savings into the project because I believe that those of us who have enough should be able to help those who need it the most,” she said. “It’s the aim of CGAH to provide homeless people with dignity and security, which is why this building will offer secured tenancy rights to the nine men who live there.

“We want to establish a long-term, sustainable solution to homelessness in Scotland, and a model that can be replicated across the UK."

Community shares has become a popular approach to raising finance for co-operatives and community benefit societies – businesses owned and run by local communities across the UK. This finance model has helped to create vital community facilities and save others from closure, such as pubs, shops and football clubs.

And according to new research from Co-operatives UK, community ownership models are helping to create a new generation of UK businesses that are better equipped to withstand the Covid-19 crisis and support the most vulnerable in society.

The organisation’s biggest ever study of the community shares market finds that of those businesses who have raised finance with community shares to date, a remarkable 92% are still trading.

The research also found that 80% of people who invest in community share offers do so because of the wider social or environmental benefits of the organisation. More than half (53%) of community share investors said they felt the share offer would create a stronger community.

Since 2012, £155 million has been raised by over 103,000 community share investors across the UK to save and create more than 440 vital community spaces and businesses.

Rose Marley, recently announced as the new chief executive of Co-operatives UK, believes that community share offers could be an increasingly important tool in helping communities deal with rising deprivation and business closures during the pandemic.

She said: “It’s clear that the Covid-19 pandemic is reshaping our economy in fundamental ways. But this adversity will create opportunity, rebuilding and rethinking the way we do business and operate our communities. Now is the time to consider those co-operative business models that can sustain jobs and communities going forward. The growing community shares market is certainly one viable option.”

The Common Ground Against Homelessness community share offer, which closes at the end of December, has already received investment from over 50 people across the UK. CGAH is aiming to open the home for life in Spring 2021.

Details of the Common Ground Against Homelessness 2020 Share Offer can be found here.

For community businesses or potential investors interested in finding out more about how to get involved in community ownership models visit



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