Orbit Housing - Using their power of procurement to support social enterprises and change lives

Real Lives Real Impact

Supporting women living with homelessness

stories from the streets

At the end of 2020 Orbit came to us with a project. The main aim was to protect Orbit’s staff with 3300 reusable face coverings. Along the way, the project had to impact a community positively but not affect the environment.

Working with our partners in the homeless communities of South London, we offered three women, each of them grandmothers, the chance of some work and the opportunity to share their stories. These are the stories of modern homelessness.

Donna is 51, homeless and a single parent who also has two grandchildren. She was a Manager at a Care Home looking after the young with Autism and Aspergers. Unfortunately, her health deteriorated, and in 2017, Donna found herself with pneumonia and in a coma.

As a result of her illness, she lost her job and home, and her life took a different direction. In 2019 Donna’s health improved, and she began to rebuild her life. She is actively seeking work in the community care sector and has a passion for communication and helping those with speech impediments

I never expected to be at this stage in my life. Yes, I’m homeless, and yes, I’m unemployed, but I’m no quitter.

Mandy has a similar story to tell, there are days when she sleeps in her car, but she was once a social worker.

Mandy has three grown-up children and seven grandchildren. For many years, Mandy has suffered from anxiety and depression stemming from her early life and working as a Social Worker. Mandy struggled for years looking after a full caseload of abused children. Despite going to her manager and her doctor with a spiralling mental health condition, she was offered no help and told to “pull herself together”.

When the inevitable breakdown happened, Mandy lost her home, her job and years of her life. It was only much later on that she was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Mandy told us that

I never expected to be in this position late in my life. I should be looking forward to retirement. My PTSD has not gone away, and being homeless is unsettling and triggers old beliefs of being unworthy.

Josephine Packing

Josephine is another Grandmother, and like Mandy and Donna works in the caring professions. Josephine is the full-time carer to a man with learning disabilities having fostered many children. Josephine lives in her own home and is relatively comfortable by comparison. Under the surface, though Josephine has a wider family in the UK and Jamaica for whom her income matters. Many of her family have lost their jobs to the pandemic and in some cases are homeless.

The many odd jobs Josephine picks up are what keeps her family afloat. Like mothers everywhere she can only be as happy as her least happy child.

It means a lot to me that I can help them and that there are companies out there like Orbit, giving back.

These three women challenge many of homelessness’s preconceptions: its male, addiction-related, or psychiatric conditions. Instead, here are three professional women with families, three professional carers and all three living with homelessness because of illness.

Every one of them has expressed their gratitude to Orbit for the opportunity to work. They use phrases like self worth, confidence-building and feeling like me again. Work. It’s only a small thing, but it’s an everything. 

The Greenest Mask

Carbon Neutral Deliveries
Plastic masks replaced
Trees planted
0 %

Protect & Preserve
0 kg
CO2 Removed

Everything about this mask is about achieving our aim of protect and preserve.  The face covering itself is made from Irish linen.  A local sustainable material made from flax. Each mask can be washed up to 100 times and they are coated with a water resistant coating that helps protect the wearer and those around around them.  The wrap and stickers it comes in is 100% biodegradable too so you can compost the lot safe in the knowledge it will not be around longer than your mask!  The delivery, process and manufacture is (like everything we do) Climate positive.  We reduce our emissions then offset the unavoidable remainders so that we and our products go beyond Carbon Neutral. 

Previous Impact Projects: Celebrating all you've done in 2020.

Happy Holidays to all at Orbit

So this is Christmas and what have you done

In the hamper we have included a leaflet that highlights all the good that has been done by Orbit Group since the beginning of the pandemic. By the simple act of procuring goods and services needed by the group through our social enterprise, Orbit has supported some of the most vulnerable communities in the country and protected the environment. There is a massive difference between doing things right and doing the right thing, yet through its choices,  Orbit Group have managed to do both. We are very proud to be your partners.


What's in your UK Manufactured, Fairtrade, Ethical Christmas Hamper...

Orbit Group asked us to produce a hamper of products that would show their staff just how grateful they are to have such an incredible team. They also wanted to send a message about just how committed the organisation is to building better communities.  

So, we created a hamper demonstrated our shared values, that would show support for local products, Social Enterprises, Cooperatives, SME’s and UK businesses. The hamper would also be carbon positive, plastic free and as ecological and waste free as possible.

We sourced all the outer packaging from companies based in areas Orbit are active in. With the second lockdown, this wasn’t easy, but we are proud to have produced a Christmas gift for you all, from places that mean something to you, that support local business’s and that make a difference to people’s lives.

The outer wrap envelope is from Birmingham while your bespoke gift box was designed by us and created in South Warwickshire. No metals have been used in the printing making it fully biodegradable. Your protective cover is from Bexley and is made using UK pcw. All printed materials were sourced and produced in Norwich using vegan ink and B Corp supply chains. Even your tissue paper is unique; acid free, biodegradable and made with vegan ink.

So, what’s in your gift box?

Goupie – 10 minutes down the A21 from Orbit’s Davit House Project is Goupie a Chocolatier that creates incredible vegan and gluten-free treats. Your little taste of Christmas is a feast of festive flavours. Rich dried fruits, roasted nuts, citrus peel and exotic Christmas spices. We’re talking all the flavour of a mince pie in a luxurious little chocolate. These treats are best served with a warm glass of mulled wine.

A hop skip and a jump away from Ilkes Modular Housing Factory that are making modular homes for the Wellesbourne Project, is Steenbergs.  They are the ethical and Fairtrade spice supplier that created your Fairtrade Mulled Wine spices in a reusable calico bag.

A little further down the road is Hull, landing spot for Divine Chocolate, the women-owned cocoa company that supports small farmers in Ghana. Divine’s story is an inspiring one of women protecting their community by ignoring the multinationals and creating their own brand and bars from their products. Fairtrade, and a tasting pack put together especially for you.

As a highlander, Bruce was very keen that Orbit also has a taste of northern goodness. Kirsty at Angelic creates the tastiest gluten-free cookies in all the land, all from her Kitchen in Inverness. Expect wild flavours of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves balanced with the sharpness of cranberry. Kirsty apologies for using the only piece of plastic in the hamper but there is no other way to keep them fresh.

Back in London, Emily, the urban gardener and Founder of Seedball is on a mission to make the world a friendlier place for bees and butterflies. She created the pellets in your matchbox that will help even the least green-fingered grow wildflowers helping you with conservation of the natural world in even the most urban of environments. As you’ll see on the box, we’d love you to send us images of your wildflowers to us at team@ethstat.com


Nemi Teas, a social enterprise, provide employment to refugees to give them local work experience and job readiness skills to enter the UK workforce helping them integrate into broader society. All their tea bags are plastic-free, the packaging is biodegradable, and the teas are Organic, Fairtrade, and Rainforest-Alliance certified.

A few minutes away from Orbit South’s offices in Hastings, is Wedding In A Teacup. Mum of four-year-old Fin and one-year-old Romy, WIATC’s founder, Hester, is fanatical about all things pretty. She personally chooses each product, stock and the designs. The five women that make WIATC each had a hand in designing, printing and filling the sunflower seeds in your hamper. Who can grow the tallest? Please do send us your photos.

Finally, your Orbit Star, the Christmas decoration chosen to remind each and every employee that they have been a star in 2020. Handmade in India by a Fairtrade factory that supports the ostracised Dalit people, the untouchables of India.

This year Orbit has done incredible work making procurement decisions that have helped thousands of people in the most desperate of situations. It seems only fitting that the ‘Star’ itself is doing the same and is a decoration you will be able to reuse again and again.

Happy Holidays Orbit, never forget – you are amazing.

A hamper of mental wellbeing

2020 has been a tough year for us all. For all the media attention on the rebirth of communities and the birth of a zoom generation, our most common shared experience is of loneliness.

In building this hamper, we shared the story of one of our friends who packed your gifts. Elsa is an extraordinary and brave woman who shared her story of lockdown in the hope that it brings into the open feelings that many of us have but might not admit. Elsa has a brilliant and successful day job running her own business the award winning and quite amazing Let It Be Cake but everyone needs friends, connection, companionship. Even the strongest and most successful of us need others around them.

In fact, every person that worked on your hampers has struggled with mental health issues in one form or another, including me, Bruce, the author of this piece.

Elsa packed your hampers

If you, or someone you know is struggling, we want you to know that you are not alone. My experience was to get through each day, just putting one foot in front of the last. I was lucky. I was able to talk, without fear or judgement with the people around me, but even then, it took me years to admit the full extent of the despair I felt.

Acknowledging your mental health needs is not weakness, in days like these its the greatest strength you can show.

As we were putting the pack together we were joined by friends Eliza and Paul from  Lives not Knives. Over the summer as the first lockdown ended Orbit Housing helped us donate PPE to LNK.  This enabled them to continue their work, taking young people out of some of the most deprived communities in the UK and give them respite breaks.

You have to remember that in some communities many children were locked up for three months in accommodation where they had less room, and less activity than prisoners.

LNK at the British museum

Over the summer the LNK led trips  to the beach in Brighton, and to the British Museum. They also gave the children the opportunity to try sports and games they would otherwise not have had the opportunity to experience.  All of these were possible in the midst of a global pandemic by the PPE we were able to donate, thanks to Orbit.

The impact on the mental health of these children was almost immeasurable and had a significant, positive impact on their protection. The NSPCC found that the lockdown period, with its increase in parental stress, reduction of normal protective services, and an increase in young people’s vulnerability led to an increase in physical, mental and sexual abuse.  By helping organisations like LNK Orbit have had a direct positive impact on young peoples lives.



Helping the Homeless and the Environment

Nightwatch feeding the homeless in South London

Changing our world

Orbit has been leading the field as a Housing Association with its values set on building communities. Ethical Stationery is proud to support these values. Every time Orbit places an order we use the surplus to give back to our most vulnerable in our society. We work with three main homelessness organisations in South London using the funds generated through our work with Orbit. Nightwatch is a charity that supports rough sleepers, providing food and support for over 150 people a night. Evolve Housing and Support, helps homeless, ex-offenders and addicts working towards sobriety. Beam is an incredible charity that helps people that are on the fringes of society find their way into education and training

Nightwatch feeds up to 150 people on the streets in Croydon every single night. Clients receive a meal, food pack and items as varied as clothes, shoes, personal hygiene packs and in some cases household items like kettles, toasters and microwaves. These help people settle into basic housing. Since the lockdown Orbit has helped by providing a donation of £1000, a years worth of stickers to label up sandwiches and food, and PPE for volunteers and clients. Crucially at the beginning of lockdown when the rough sleepers were placed into emergency housing, Orbit helped us donate a weeks food for 50 rough sleepers.

Even though Nightwatch is dealing with the rough sleeping emergency it understands that it still has a part to play in protecting the environment.  Using the proceeds of our work with Orbit Housing, we have been able to change Nightwatch’s drinking cups for biodegradable alternatives.  The move will stop 200 unrecyclable single use plastic cups from entering the waste stream every night. 

Orbit has also helped out at the Evolve shelter in South London.  The Evolve Shelter has 80 clients, each coming from a variety of backgrounds who need our support. Orbit helped us provide PPE  and sanitisers for all the clients and staff.  

While all of these projects have been at the sharp end of homeless care, our work with Orbit has helped us rebuild lives and help take people off the streets for good and into work.  At Ethical Stationery, we have partnered with Beam to help identify people ready to train and take on new work and careers that will move them away from homelessness for good. 


We are proud to have removed polystyrene cups and replace them with fully biodegradable ones. By doing this we’ve saved over 4000 pieces of single use plastic from entering the environment. This equates to approximately 2.4kg of CO2 saved every night!

We have supplied over 4000 Bio paper cups
Training the homeless


Michael's story

I really enjoy being active and doing the job or role that I enjoy. I am at my happiest when I am doing hands on work and keeping myself busy. Getting a job will help me get my own freedom and independence. I don’t want to be reliant on universal credit, I want to earn my own money. Hopefully this will mean that in two years time I will be renting my own one bedroom flat and have some security.

In September 2017 I became homeless because my parents made me leave my family home. They made me choose between them and a relationship I was in at the time. I chose the relationship but when that broke down I didn’t have anywhere to go. Things changed when I approached my local council and was referred to Centrepoint. They gave me a place to live and referred me to Beam so I can get back into work.I was working in a carpentry apprenticeship towards the end of last year but the outbreak of Covid-19 has made it very difficult to secure work since. It’s also put a strain on my relationships with family, not being able to see them anymore and spend time together. I loved the physical aspect of carpentry and feel that I can apply that to a role in a warehouse. I am used to working with my hands and in labouring type roles so I’m ready to apply my skills to a role in a warehouse.

Ricardo's story

Ricardo  is a regular client at Croydon Nightwatch.  I first became homeless last year when I was unable to pay my rent and got evicted from the flat I was in. I was promised money by my ex-boss that I never received and, as a result, was left in a financially desperate situation. I was out on the street and things just got worse when I couldn’t find a new job because of having no stable address. Becoming homeless is one of the worst things that can happen to someone. I had always paid my own way and suddenly I felt I had lost everything including my dignity.

Things started to turn around for me when I was offered a house to stay in by a kind stranger and I came off the streets. I am fortunate enough to have been helped by those around me but I don’t want to be reliant on other people’s support, I want to be the one helping others. This is my main motivation for improving myself and making my life better.


Dee's story

Dee's Story

It has always made me happy to be able to help those in need. I have eight years of experience working as a support worker with many different vulnerable people, and it’s something I love to do.

Unfortunately, I became homeless with my daughter in 2019 as my permit for staying in the UK was delayed for more than a year. All of my support was stopped. I couldn’t work and my daughter and I were told to leave the property we were living in. I had my daughter with me and we had to stay in a church for some time. Being homeless with a child is a bad experience no one should encounter. I was almost pushed into selling drugs but I kept saying to myself that I had to be strong for my daughter and that we would soon come out of the situation.

Things started improving as soon as I got my residence permit back. Now Beam is supporting me to raise the funds to get my own home to live in. I’m currently pregnant and my babe is due in the summer. I hope we have a new home by then. After that, I’ll be able to get back into work, which is so important. Having a job changes life for the better. I will not have to depend on others in the same way again. I’ll be able to support other instead.

Soraya's story

I’ve always believed that the best thing is to be positive and believe in yourself, to ask others for help, to stop blaming yourself and to try new things. You can find another way of moving forward, through training, getting a different job. It’s possible to improve your life.

I’ve been homeless since 2018. After getting pregnant, everyone around me wanted me to terminate it. I refused, and at first they turned on me, so I had to go to Southwark Council who put me in temporary accommodation. Since then, my family have come to understand what I’ve done. I’ve also achieved a lot! I’ve graduated from university, passed my driving test and had my bouncing baby boy.

I’ve been working for much of the last year as a cleaner, which I’ve really enjoyed. My team have become like a family to me. We all care for and look out for each other. However, I’ve recently been moved into another temporary flat far away, and unless I’m able to return to the borough I’ll have to leave my job. I don’t want to do this. I want to be able to pay for myself and to continue working in the job I enjoy.

When I got a call from Beam, I was so happy. They’re going to fund me to get my own home. It’s amazing. I won’t be homeless anymore, I’ll be able to continue work and I can start moving forward with my life again.