West Midlands youth homelessness charity St Basils has revealed its new Chair of Board of Directors, Feizal Hajat OBE.

St Basils, the largest youth homelessness charity in the region, appointed Hajat as its new Chair at the organisation’s Annual General Meeting on yesterday (September 14). 

Hajat – who succeeds Sara Fowler, board member from 2012 and Chair since 2015 – joined St Basils’ board in 2016 and has also served on the Service Delivery and Development committee.

St Basils works with young people aged 16-25 who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, helping over 5000 young people per year across the West Midlands region with specific services in Birmingham, Coventry, Leamington Spa, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall, Warwickshire, Worcestershire and the Wyre Forest.

Every year over 1500 young people are housed in our 39 supported accommodation schemes, which for some young people includes their young children as well.

Feizal Hajat has over 30 years of experience of working within the public sectorHandout
Feizal Hajat has over 30 years of experience of working within the public sector

With a background as a Midlands based public sector lawyer with a special interest in housing and homelessness, Hajat has over 30 years of experience of working within the public sector at both national and local level.

Throughout his career, he has worked with colleagues across all sectors to develop the law related to community safety and was recognised for his contribution in 2011 by being awarded an OBE.

Between 2016 and earlier this year, when the coronavirus pandemic struck, Hajat was undertaking a hybrid civil law and criminal law role, enabling him to continue to advise on housing and homelessness law and contribute to policy development.

As a consequence of the COVID-19, his work has been refocused and he is now currently working with Public Health Professionals to use the law to help reduce the spread of Coronavirus infections and provide guidance to help organisations reopen safely.

West Midlands charity St Basils provides homeless prevention servicesSt Basils
West Midlands charity St Basils provides homeless prevention services

Of his new appointment, Feizal Hajat said:

“I am genuinely humbled to have the honour of being put forward as the chair of St Basils. I pay tribute to Sara under whose leadership the board has flourished and St Basils has gone from strength to strength. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we have to fight harder to preserve our services by continuing to prevent homelessness and support young people who access our services to thrive.

“More than ever, we must do all we can to enable the voices of young people particularly those from our black community to be heard and acted upon. I do not underestimate the challenges that lie ahead but am assured that the talent and energy of those working at St Basils will see us through and emerge even stronger. I hope to bring all the skills and knowledge I have attained working locally and nationally to the role of chair.

“I have served on St Basils Board for over 4 years, undertaken governance visits and helped with recruitment, but the highlight of each year has been the Youth Achievement Awards which is a true celebration of young people and everything St Basils and its staff work so hard for.”

The charity has a range of prevention, accommodation, support, employability and engagement services to help young people regain the stability they need to rebuild their lives, gain skills, confidence and employment and move on in life.

According to its mission statement, the organisation’s aim is to help homeless youth successfully break the ‘cycle of homelessness’ so that they can go on to experience a bright, fulfilling future and never return to a state where they are at risk of homelessness again.

West Midlands charity St Basils provides accomodation and support servicesSt Basils
West Midlands charity St Basils provides accomodation and support services

Chief Executive of St Basils Jean Templeton said: “It has been a privilege to work with Sara as Chair of our Board. She has applied her considerable professional astuteness and skills, as well as her compassion and commitment, to achieving our mission during her time as Chair. We have benefitted hugely from her leadership.

“I am also delighted that the Board have appointed our new Chair from within and that Feizal [Hajat] has taken up the challenge. His experience, knowledge, skills and absolute commitment to our purpose will ensure we are in extremely capable hands as we continue through challenging times, to ensure that homelessness is not part of growing up for young people.”

Sara Fowler, who stood down at the AGM is a chartered accountant and worked for Ernst & Young for over 30 years, including as a partner and then a senior partner. Speaking about her time as Chair, Sara Fowler said:

“St Basils provides vital services and accommodation to homeless young people or those at risk of homelessness. During my time as Chair I have been constantly impressed with how St Basils has continually met its charitable purpose of achieving its ambitious outcomes for the young people it serves within the constraints of public spending reviews and other challenges necessitating sector leading methodologies, operational efficiency and innovative pricing and contracting model.

“I have witnessed this once again as St Basils has adapted its practices in order to be able to deliver its services to young people throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Jean Templeton as Chief Executive and all the team at St Basils show incredible skill and dedication.

“Whilst serving on the Board as Chair, St Basils has delivered on many exciting initiatives such as Fair Chance Rewriting Futures financed through a unique initiative using a social impact bond, the Live and Work scheme at Sandwell offering apprenticeships and affordable rents and the development of a number of new accommodation units throughout the West Midlands most recently in Coventry.

“The success of these initiatives gives me confidence that St Basils will continue to drive the agenda of supporting young people at risk of homelessness and helping them achieve their aspirations.

“As I stand down, I am delighted Feizal has accepted the appointment as Chair of St Basils. Feizal has been an invaluable member of St Basils’ Board for a number of years and will bring his experience, skills and passion for helping young people in a wise and caring manner to his role of Chair.”

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