Housing Justice was created in 2003 when Catholic Housing Aid Society (CHAS) and Churches’ National Housing Coalition (CNHC) merged. In January 2006 Housing Justice expanded further when it merged with Church Action on Homelessness in London (UNLEASH).

This page gives a timeline of key events in the organisation’s 60 year development.

1956 CHAS is founded by Maisie Ward Sheed, a writer and publisher, and Mollie Walsh, a grass roots activist. Although most of CHAS’s funds were raised by Catholics, CHAS’s services have always been available to the whole community. No one has ever been asked about their religion.

1961 CHAS pioneers local Housing Aid Centres, providing independent, free and confidential advice to people in housing need, with the emphasis on prevention of homelessness. Our first clients, Peter and Maureen Bell, still look back with thanks to the help they received in their time of need.

1966 CHAS co-founds Shelter, set up to raise awareness and fundraise for housing associations and housing aid centres. The Director of CHAS, Father Eamonn Casey, is Shelter’s first Chair. CHAS’ housing arm pioneers permanent housing for single parents.

1969 CHAS is a co-founder of SHAC, the London Housing Aid Centre. The Cullingworth Report recommends that CHAS’ pioneering “Out of London” scheme to assist families to move to less crowded areas should be developed on a larger scale.

1970 Greve Report on Homelessness in London commends the importance of independent advice centres like CHAS. 30 CHAS centres have attached Family Housing Associations, originally the property-owning arm of CHAS but now independent.

1977 CHAS lobbying plays a key role in the introduction of the 1977 Housing (Homeless Persons) Act, which for the first time gives rights to housing to some homeless people, mostly families with children and single parents.

1981 UNLEASH (United London Ecumenical Action on Single Homelessness) founded following a conference convened jointly by CHAS and the Anglican Diocese of Southwark.

1985 CHAS’ then Assistant Director Robina Rafferty contributes as one of the members of the Archbishop’s Commission responsible for the Faith in the City report.

1989 CHAS’ Director helps to set up the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Homelessness and Housing Need, and becomes its Clerk.

1990 CHAS establishes a Partnership Programme giving small seed-corn grants to new ventures demonstrating different ways in which church-based housing services are responding to the problems of homelessness. Also launches an Education Programme, to raise awareness, help Christians to reflect on housing issues in the light of their faith, and enable and encourage local action

1991 CNHC, the Churches National Housing Coalition, formed as an expression of Christian concern about poverty, and in particular the increasing shortage of affordable rented housing.

1992 CNHC organises the first-ever Churches Lobby of Parliament on housing issues. 3,000 Christians come to Westminster. On the eve of the Lobby, in Westminster Abbey, the Archbishop of Canterbury calls for “a moral crusade to rid society of the evil of homelessness”. CNHC’s Petition, signed by 220,000 supporters, is presented to the House of Commons.

1993 The first national, ecumenical Homelessness Sunday takes place, organised by CHAS and CNHC.

1994 CNHC’s Church Land and Property scheme launched by Archbishop George Carey and Cardinal Hume.

1996 CHAS celebrates its 40th anniversary – but the need for our work has not diminished. CHAS mounts a street campaign on hidden homelessness.

1999 Cardinal Hume launches CHAS’ Debt Advice Service, a few weeks before his death from cancer.

1999/2000 CHAS and CNHC together run the successful Green Pepper Campaign, hotting up the debate on housing. The ensuing Green Paper and housing legislation meet many of our demands.

2000 Regenerate, a community-led estate regeneration project, established by CNHC.

2001 CNHC launches MegaBite Meal Voucher scheme, to improve the nutrition of homeless people on the streets.

2003 CHAS and CNHC merge to form Housing Justice.

2006 UNLEASH merges with Housing Justice.