Tributes for founder of housing association

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TRIBUTES have been paid to John Belcher, the founding director of the South Yorkshire Housing Association, who died on October 16, aged 79.

Inspired by the 1966 BBC drama about the plight of the homeless, Cathy Come Home, Mr Belcher joined forces with charity Shelter and the local authority to buy and renovate run-down properties in Sheffield for homeless families.

He founded the Housing Association in 1972, armed only with a second-hand typewriter and access to a public telephone box in Bolton-on-Dearne and went on to grow the housing stock from nothing to 3,500 affordable homes in his 23 years in the position.

Speaking on the 20th anniversary of the Association (SYHA), Mr Belcher said: “We have been able to bring to light those who never appeared in any official statistics, who were not eligible for any council waiting list and whose difficulties were shamelessly exploited by some private landlords. These are the ‘hidden homeless.’”

Tony Stacey, current chief executive at SYHA, said: “John’s original vision continues to guide us today.

“Regrettably, the need for good quality affordable housing for people who can’t buy their own home or afford spiralling private rents is as great today as when John retired. His memory and mission live on.”

SYHA staff member Russell Wright added: “I count myself privileged to have worked with John Belcher for almost 20 years and both I and many of my colleagues were inspired by him.

“He instilled in us his passion for housing society’s most vulnerable people and established values which we continue to hold dear to this day. The positive impact John made is still remarkably relevant today, to both SYHA residents and people throughout the wider Sheffield City Region. John loved us, and we loved him.”

A memorial service was held on Monday at the Mowthorpe Garden of Rest in Terrington, North Yorkshire.