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History of LHF

How we started

A Brief History

Originally part of the Central Young Mens Christian Housing Association (later part of the YMCA) the LHF ran the hostel at St Giles Hotel in Bloomsbury. This was sold in 1991 and the LHF received a fund of over £7m. Through good financial management, this has been invested to create an annual income for the LHF of £500k. We use this to fund ideas and make a difference.

The London Housing Foundation (LHF) started life as the Central Young Men’s Christian Housing Association Ltd. In its later years, the Central YMCA provided accommodation for single people in one of the three towers of the St Giles Hotel in Bloomsbury.

The cost of acquiring and refurbishing the St Giles Hotel had been arranged through bank loans and the input of a Housing Association Grant from the London Borough of Camden. However, the major recession in both business and property prices of the late 1980s eroded the profits and market value of the hotel. This led to financial difficulties and the Housing Corporation appointed a number of new Directors to the Association in 1989.

In 1990 the name of the Central Young Men’s Christian Housing Association Ltd. was changed to the London Housing Foundation.

The hotel was sold in 1991, with 50% of the £15 million proceeds to be returned to the London Borough of Camden as repaid grant. Some of the £7.5 million was immediately used to help rehouse the former residents who would have been made homeless on sale.

The remainder was placed in trust to meet the needs of single homeless people in London.

The Foundation established itself as a respected grant-making charity. Innovative education and training programmes for managers of homelessness agencies were also commissioned and the IMPACT programme was launched. This included the development of the hugely successful Outcomes Star; Beyond a Helpline – an innovative pilot to provide effective HR support to small homelessness agencies; and a range of leadership development programmes. In October 2008, the outcomes programme was transferred to Homeless Link for further development and dissemination.

In 2006, the Foundation started to support homelessness agencies develop use of the private rented sector. The programme ended in late 2008 having established encouraging work in this area with a well-used website; a programme of seminars; and a number of reports

Don Wood led the organisation as Executive Chairman for five years between 2008 and 2013. During this time the LHF introduced the Atlas and Navigator publications, and concentrated on themes to do with criminal justice, health and employment, training and volunteering. The Foundation has also focused on funding and publicising the Andy Ludlow Awards, now known as the London Homelessness Awards.

Simon Dow, previously Group Chief Executive of The Guinness Partnership and acting Chief Executive of the Housing Corporation, was appointed Executive Chair in September 2015. He has focussed on ensuring that the LHF responds well to the changing environment of homelessness in London and allocating our resources to our three main activities: the London Homelessness Awards; the South Bank University Leadership Course; and grant awards.

Simon stood down as chair in December 2020 but remains on the LHF Board. He was succeeded by Ian Brady. You can find out more about Ian here.