Good Leaders Podcast Episode 11 – Rebecca White: ‘There’s something about having nothing to lose that makes you take risks’

Rebecca White, CEO and founder of Your Own Place CIC, tells Tim West that she started the award-winning “targeted prevention homelessness” social enterprise after seeing that “something crucial was missing for people who didn’t have many of the advantages” that others had, and opens up about her biggest regret as a social entrepreneur.

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The homelessness crisis in the UK is the worst it has been in years, with both rough sleeping and hidden homelessness on the rise. Rebecca White, CEO and founder of Your Own Place CIC, an award-winning “targeted prevention homelessness social enterprise”, says that she started the social enterprise in 2013 after seeing that “something crucial was missing for people who didn’t have many of the advantages” that others had – namely, “cash and connections”. She decided to fill this gap in the market by creating a community interest company that provides group workshops and one-to-one support on money management, housing and tenancy. 

Rather than landlords or housing associations being the ones to provide the knowledge needed to help tenants make better informed decisions, Rebecca, a former housing commissioner, believes that this should come from an independent, specialist organisation. She says: “The person who’s chasing you for rent should not be the person who’s also supposedly providing this additional support, because guess what? If you’re a bit behind with the rent, you’re going to avoid them.”

With years of experience working with young people at youth crime prevention and homelessness charity Catch 22, Rebecca initially targeted the support from Your Own Place towards vulnerable young people – usually care leavers or those leaving parental custody – who were more susceptible to losing their homes. According to government data, young people in particular are one of the demographics that are most at risk of ‘hidden homelessness’, whether it be sofa surfing, living in unconventional structures like mobile homes, or squatting. 

Now, Rebecca says her organisation works with “all ages” to bring to life its “vision that everybody at the very least should have a safe and secure home”. Her deep-rooted sense of justice and determination to set up a business that has “equity and social welfare written through it” is in part attributable to the teachings of her “leftist” father and “communist” grandfather. She says that the valuable work Your Own Place does should be “funded by the public sector”, which she “believes in as a safety net”, but “provided by the third sector” because of its independence. 

Rebecca’s proudest achievement to date? The survival of Your Own Place: “The fact we’re still here 10 years on, having weathered Covid, cost of living and austerity.” However, her enterprise has not only survived, it has thrived, having won the 2022 PwC Impact in Social Enterprise award. Rebecca herself was also recognised as one of the UK’s most inspiring and influential women in social enterprise on the 2022 NatWest WISE 100 list, run by Pioneers Post.

The big mistake, the big learning is how isolated I’ve been - that I’ve not developed enough of a network of support

Despite the level of social impact Your Own Place has achieved, Rebecca admits that leading a social enterprise can be “lonely”. “The big mistake, the big learning is how isolated I’ve been. I’ve been very, very busy and let friendships fall by the wayside,” she says. Her biggest lesson from her experience as a social entrepreneur? To develop “a network of support”.

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