Shelter has been a powerful voice for the homeless since 1966, when it was founded by a small group led by founder-chairman Bruce Kenrick and founder-director Des Wilson, responding to the massive housing crisis by creating the country's first campaigning charity. Their vision was to unite five previously competitive appeals behind one organisation that would speak for the millions of 'hidden homeless' living overcrowded in slums.
Around the same time, the BBC showed Ken Loach’s film Cathy Come Home, telling the story of a young family as their worsening housing conditions tore them apart. More than 12 million people watched it and were horrified. So when Shelter launched a few days later, we had a powerful platform of support – and we could tell a story that still needs to be told today.
Such was its impact that in 1968–69 (for the only time ever) Britain built over 400,000 houses a year. Nearly five decades of constant lobbying have pressured governments into making some key changes to the law, and we’ve celebrated some landmark achievements in recent years – like the introduction of the Tenancy Deposit Scheme in England, or the ground-breaking commitment in Scotland that, from 2012, everyone will have the right to a home.
We’ve achieved a lot along the way, but the housing crisis isn’t over. That’s why we’ll keep fighting until there’s a home for everyone.
Shelter's founder-chairman was Bruce Kenrick, and the founder-director was Des Wilson (who had spent a year researching and planning the launch, and went on to lead Shelter until 1971). The other co-founders, all of whom played vital roles, were the Rev. Eammon Casey and Lewis Waddilove (each of whom served terms as chair), Edwin Barker and David Reid.