My name is Gerry King. I am a tenant living on the Holland estate in Spitalfields and have been working as an Estates Inspector with EastendHomes since 2012. I had previously lived in Bristol, and while I was there I worked for a charity engaging ‘hard to reach’ clients in training, education and ultimately employment. Some of the issues I had to deal with involved contact with Bristol City Council Housing services. It was then I realised it would be good for the charity and my clients to get familiar with housing policy, so I became a tenant liaison board member and later a full tenant board member. I have never taken social housing for granted and when I was given my own home I felt such a huge sense of relief and security that came with my door keys. I believe that what we have we must look after.
I was born in London, south of the river in Battersea, but I never thought it was imaginable to get back to London again. However, through a mutual exchange it was made possible and I have come to love the area I live in and predominately everything in it. I remember signing the relevant papers with my housing officer Edgar Tannoh at the old EastendHomes office. I expressed an interest to get involved and Edgar suggested applying to become an Estates Inspector. It followed that I met Edgar’s colleague Kamal Uddin and over the years we’ve got to know each other pretty well.
I learnt very quickly that I was privileged in working with these men as they’d built up a lot of goodwill with the residents of the various estates we were to inspect on a roughly six-week basis, my work permitting. There is a familiarity that comes from taking time to care about people – being invited into people’s homes for refreshment, celebrating births and looking out for the elderly residents who have lost their partners. The board meetings are an ongoing learning experience and socially I’ve had a few surprises. It was through a board member Max Reeves that I actually found a day job doing something I love. Initially when I moved to London I worked in a high support hostel that was very demanding. My neighbours are international and I’ve reaped the benefits of their collective cookery skills, from mint tea and spices from Morocco through to curries from Bangladesh and hipster fish fingers in artisan bread. While this all comes over as fabulously diverse the reality is it is a huge asset as the residents count amongst their numbers bus drivers, supermarket workers, student welfare officers, high flying City types, academics, artists and writers. This is a community that really works together when faced with challenges
The duties of an Estates Inspector involve accompanying a housing officer and caretaker on a walk around a chosen estate and checking health and safety, maintenance and the cleanliness of the buildings and the area. It can involve tenants raising issues with the housing officer, covering things such as repairs, parking, refuse collection and anti-social behaviour. The recent Grenfell tragedy has certainly brought to the fore fire regulation responsibilities and EastendHomes have responded robustly in their precautions in all their high-rise blocks.
I have always found the care takers, Michael, Trevor, Efosa, and Friday, hardworking and courteous individuals who have gained quite an extensive knowledge of the buildings they look after and are sensitive to their needs. There is the occasional issue but nothing that isn’t put right and usually with good grace. Leading up the team is the Hammers supporter Dave Camilleri who takes his lead from our main sparring partner Keith Brown who is Head of Housing management services. It hasn’t always been easy over the past four years or so what with the pervading re-development climate literally threatening the roofs over our heads. There were some dark times, but it now looks like there is light at the end of the tunnel. Through meetings, resident involvement a mutual respect has been nurtured and the residents and EastendHomes have worked towards building good relations. Nothing is ever perfect but many things have got better and as long as you can still corner a chief executive on the estate and have a gripe, it’s a good thing.
It is terrific to be part of a Housing Association that is now committed to maintaining these fabulous estates that date from the 1920s - London brick structures with Canadian pine floorboards once brought in from the local docks, where sailors brought monkeys and tigers off their ships in kit bags to sell on Club Row by Bethnal Green Road. Carter House on Brune Street opposite the Jewish Soup Kitchen was named after Ernest Carter, a vicar who led the hymns on the deck of the Titanic as it sank, his church was St Jude on Commercial Street – long gone.
I will continue to be an Estates Inspector as I love seeing the constant change and positive development going on in our neighbourhood. This is one of the most vibrant areas in Europe and possibly the world. Witnessing the improvements that are taking place on the EastendHomes estates is truly magnificent and the names trip off my tongue like stations of the Underground: Wheler House, Herbert and Jacobson, Brunswick and Wentworth Dwellings, Denning Point, Ladbroke and Bradbury Court, Brune, Bernard, Barnett and Carter House. It really is an honour to be part of their history and care.