By Paragon director, Paul Arthur.
Whichever way we look at it, homelessness is a major social issue in the UK. Despite being one of the world’s wealthiest countries, we’re still seeing too many people forced to tough it out on the streets.
Current statistics are frightening. Figures from Shelter indicate that year-on-year homelessness is on the rise. In 2018 there were at least 320,000 homeless people in the UK — that’s one in every 200 people and a four per cent rise from the previous year. In England alone, more than 32,000 16 to 24-year olds sought support for homelessness.
No one should be experiencing this, let alone young people who are among the most vulnerable in society. As key stakeholders within the property industry, we can make a difference and help tackle this before it continues to worsen.
Time to take action
Many of Paragon’s staff and families live and work in cities and therefore see what a huge problem this is and feel motivated to help. So, we decided to act.
Paragon partnered with charity LandAid, launched by a group of surveyors in 1986 inspired by Bob Geldof’s Live Aid. The charity brings the property industry together to support organisations working to deliver life-changing services to young homeless people across the country.
We created an eight-person committee, which I chair, comprising Paragon’s LandAid ambassadors from all our regional hubs, to propose fundraising ideas and plan an activity programme for the company. We have staff on both the hugely influential North West Regional Board in James Onions and myself on the South West Regional Board.
Charity work and giving back is an intrinsic part of Paragon and one of our key values. An idea led by our people, fundraising has now become a firmly established company-wide initiative, raising thousands per year.
Working with LandAid
In addition to our commitment to an annual £10,000 donation as a LandAid foundation partner, we set ourselves a target of raising £30,000 and created a programme of innovative activity to honour this pledge.
After just six months, we’ve all but beaten this annual target. Our programme of activity has proved extremely successful, raising £29,246, with future efforts putting us on course to far exceed our goal.
Based on our commitment and fundraising efforts over the past year our partnership with the charity has been upgraded. We’re very pleased to be named as a LandAid Strategic Partner, one of the charity’s most committed supporters raising over £30,000 annually.
Where our funds go
The funds we are raising through LandAid have been supporting The Amber Foundation and its Farm Place residential centre in Dorking, Surrey. Opened in 2010, this centre provides the space and facilities for up to 30 young people to rebuild their lives away from the pressures of their previous environment.
Last month, seven staff visited Farm Place to see how our donations are being used. It’s something I cannot recommend enough. We met some of the young people, who were so grateful for all our help in providing a facility which is helping them put their pasts behind them. It was a very inspirational few hours out of my day that highlighted the difference we are making.
Our fundraising activity
At Paragon we’re all about doing everything to the best of our ability and having fun at the same time. Our fundraising programme is centred around developing challenging, yet enjoyable ways in which we can generate funds.
We held our fourth annual Mudathon event in September 2018, which saw 331 property industry professionals run, climb and crawl through more than 100 mud and water obstacles at the UK’s toughest 5 km obstacle course, raising £14,000 in the process for LandAid and Macmillan Cancer Support.
We also coordinated a company-wide cycle challenge for LandAid Day in November 2018. Everyone at Paragon contributed to cycle a combined 1,385 miles, the distance from Edinburgh to Cannes, far exceeding our 874-mile target.
And most recently, in January 2019 we hosted our famous Paragon Mountain Meal charity auction at PropSki, the UK’s largest property networking ski event, held in the French Alps. This raised a fantastic £20,000 for LandAid and the Elifar Foundation.
On a personal note
Fundraising is something I’m extremely passionate about. Outside of my role as a Paragon LandAid ambassador I travelled with a small team of industry professionals to the depths of southern Russia and the Caucasus Mountains last year. I was part of a team which scaled (unaided I might add!) Europe’s highest peak, the 5,642m Mount Elbrus via the tougher North Route, which raised £6,500. It was at times a harrowing but truly fantastic experience and it is definitely one of my proudest personal achievements.
I feel that we can all make sacrifices to help others, tackling challenges that take us out of our comfort zone and test us. This makes fundraising activity more rewarding and gives important perspective in helping us appreciate what we have.
Having the opportunity to experience first-hand just how much our work is helping
to transform lives further reinforces my commitment to supporting this cause and to give young people the chance to get back on their feet.
I’m a strong believer that this activity brings our company together as well as the industry as a whole, allowing us to build relationships, give something back to society and crucially help those in need. LandAid is an excellent cause and one that we, and no doubt the whole industry, are proud to support.
To find out more about Paragon’s work with LandAid, visit https://paragonbc.co.uk/working-with-us/giving-back.