Idris’ Story

Ten years ago Idris Ahmed was working in sales, now he leads Certitude’s award-winning project which supports Somali people to find homes and establish a life in Lambeth. Idris explains his unusual career journey:

“About ten years ago I left sales to work in the East End for a charity called the Queen Victoria Seaman’s Rest which provides accommodation for seafarers, both current and retired. Many of the Somalis who came to the UK after the Second World War were in the Navy – including my father –and there were a good number of Somali men who were supported by this organisation.”

“Around 2005 a friend of mine told me about a project Certitude was setting up specifically to help Somalis. At the outset the focus was on combating the misuse of a drug called Khat which is a leaf from Africa which you chew. Over time we realised that Somalis – many of whom were fleeing civil unrest in urgent circumstances – were arriving in London with very little personal belongings and their biggest problem was finding somewhere to live. This housing crisis is at the root of many other problems so the service shifted its emphasis onto finding homes.”

Certitude’s Somali Tenancy Support Service now assists 25 Somali people, at any one time, in Lambeth with a range of services designed to help them access the housing and benefits system. Idris explains:

“Somali people in London often have little or no English and no idea how to find somewhere to live. We can help them access the benefits system and find the right kind of accommodation – and advise them how to keep up with rents and stay in this accommodation. Somalis can be an isolated group and we have been able to successfully engage with the community directly – and crucially in their mother tongue.”

“This is a free service which offers a real lifeline for people and I am really proud of how we have been able to transform people’s lives. However there are over 2,000 Somalis living in Lambeth so there is still a lot of work to be done.”