‘No limit to what you can do if you set your mind to it’ - departing Ipswich homeless campaigner’s inspiring final words
A campaigner who battled to solve homelessness in Ipswich for 27 years has urged the town to “work collectively to change things”, saying: “There’s no limit to what you can do if you set your mind to it.”
Halford Hewitt is leaving Ipswich Housing Action Group (IHAG) in August having helped the organisation grow and support thousands of people in desperate situations over nearly three decades.
In that time he said IHAG has had to "fight every day" to maintain its core purpose but said he was proud the organisation was "still true to our values".
He now wants IHAG and others in the town continue to work for a fully integrated system for supporting homeless people, rather than separate organisations helping people with different parts of the problem.
Mr Hewitt, who was made an MBE earlier this year for his services to the town, said: "Nothing gets me going more than someone saying: 'That's just the way it is.'
"Things are only the way they are because we allow them to be.
"There's no limit to what we can do if you set your mind to it. We've forgotten the power of people to work collectively to change things."
Mr Hewitt said he joined IHAG in 1992 having previously worked in a youth counselling service in Colchester because: "I wanted to do something worthwhile.
"It was community-based, which was important to me then and still is today. It was also local.
"So many housing jobs are in a big organisation - IHAG was independent.
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"IHAG is quite unique in that it's still a community organisation that is still small enough to be whatever it wants to be.
"There are very few organisations left that have that commitment to social justice. Lots of organisations have got too big and removed from their social mission."
Even though IHAG has expanded to cope the greater demand for its services, Mr Hewitt said: "It has stayed the right size and kept its commitment to bringing about social change and changing the system that affect homeless people."
A challenge for many businesses and charities is finding the funding to keep going.
Some are offered work that might be outside their core purpose, but could help to pay bills and staff wages.
Mr Hewitt said: "We've had a very strong realisation that you shouldn't just do things for money.
"It's a slippery slope. We've turned down contracts because it's not within our organisational mission.
"It requires an awful lot of effort - to do what we know is right, rather than what someone would pay us to do.
"We are very focused on Ipswich and have to fight every day to maintain that independence."
Asked what he was most proud of during his time in the role, Mr Hewitt said: "The fact we're still true to our values.
"Many organisations have a mission statement but very few actually live it," he said.
"It takes a lot of time, effort and really good leadership.
"I tried to do that and we tried to put our principles first."
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