Westminster, London – Outcast Foundation, a new charity specifically targeting poverty, exclusion and homelessness, has been denied temporary basic office accommodation by property giant Land Securities Group PLC (LSE: LAND), the UK’s largest commercial property development and investment company, on the basis that the Foundation’s founder is himself homeless.
When the founder of the Outcast Foundation, 59 year-old Tony Wood, a retired consulting engineer who is now dedicating his life to helping others through philanthropic initiatives, approached directors of the recently rebranded Landsec to enquire whether they would be willing to make available temporary office accommodation to enable the new charity to get off the ground, having provided corroborative documents and a large number of excellent references from local business leaders strongly supporting the initiative, his approach was initially met with a very positive response.
Landsec is known to be an active supporter of local charities. They are also known to own a considerable number of long-time empty properties in the Victoria area of Westminster awaiting redevelopment. Both significant factors influencing Wood’s decision to make the initial approach.
Furthermore, for the previous 9 months Wood had been working as a The Big Issue magazine vendor literally just a few yards in front of Landsec’s luxurious new offices at 100 Victoria Street, Westminster and was on good terms with a large number of Landsec staff and senior management who were all well aware of both his personal homeless situation and ambitions concerning the new charity.
It therefore came as a huge surprise when, after several weeks wait, Wood received an e-mail from Landsec’s Community Manager, Ben Anderson, advising that suppport from Landsec would be “limited” while Wood was still sleeping on the street, i.e. that he was “homeless”, the fact of which most, if not all, Landsec staff were well aware when the application was initially made. Indeed, this was one fundamental reason why the application had been made to them in the first place: Wood’s limited means, with his sole income coming from sales of The Big Issue magazine.
The e-mail also commented: “The one thing that has come back is how impressed people have been with your vision for the Outcast Foundation and your determination to see it become a reality.” Followed by the somewhat surprising comment that “… a charity we actively support, is also extremely keen to see you off the streets, so I would encourage you to engage with that organisation, who have excellent connections and a proven track record to help people find a permanent home.”
However the grim reality of the situation is that, certainly to the best of Wood’s experience of many months of trying, charities were entirely unable to assist with providing accommodation for people not having access to state “Housing Benefit”, as was Wood’s particular situation, and a fact already known to Landsec staff and management, many of whom were in daily contact with him.
This strange sequence of events not only begs the question as to what in reality ultimately influenced Landsec’s surprising decision, entirely at odds with their initial highly positive response as expressed through some of their key management staff. It also poses other questions concerning the position and influence of the many, often very large, charities involved in “supporting” homeless persons, and who are often in receipt of substantial local authority grants and private funding. And also the question of the Government’s attitude to homelessness in general and why some people are actively assisted whilst others apparently not at all.
Whatever the answers to the above questions, as Christmas, the season of good will, draws near, Wood is certainly left with a bitter taste in his mouth as he continues trying to find a home for the Outcast Foundation, commenting
“I find the whole situation extremely bizarre. It is blatant discrimination against a homeless person and the homeless in general. One of the key initiatives of the new Foundation is to find solutions to exclusion, homelessness and other manifestations of poverty, and to put an end to related discrimination and stigma.
“I understand Landsec to be a significant supporter of at least one other charity providing care for the homeless, so it would appear that, at the very least, they have a regime of double-standards, or, worse still, have in some way been persuaded to decline our application at the very last minute.
“Landsec’s philosophy is that of ‘everything is experience’, and I can only concur with this notion. Unfortunately in my situation and that of the Outcast Foundation, the experience is, to say the least, an entirely bad one.”
Tony Wood and the Outcast Foundation can be contacted through their website at http://outcastfdn.org
Tel: +44 (0)2071 297371
Press Release Photo Attachment (Tony Wood, Founder of Outcast Foundation, Outside Landsec HQ, 100 Victoria Street, Westminster, London)