GLASGOW has so many outstanding organisations and charities who provide essential services to people who need them most.

Volunteers and staff who go above and beyond the call of duty. There’s so much innovative work going on in our city that contributes to change for good across Scotland. It deserves to be showcased. I’ll start this week and hope to do more over the coming months.

When it comes to racial equality in housing it’s no surprise that Scotland’s best-known campaigners for ethnic minority communities grew out of the Glasgow housing association movement. Scotland’s first ever community-based social landlord was born in Govan in 1971 and throughout the 70s and 80s local housing associations flourished across the city, giving people homes to be proud of instead of cold, damp, slums.

Historically, ethnic minorities had severe problems accessing social housing in Scotland, and research in this area was first commissioned in 1989 with the support of Glasgow housing associations. This led to the creation of the Housing Equality Action Unit (HEAU) under the umbrella of the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations in the early 90s. The Unit tackled problems of racial harassment in Glasgow, Dundee and Edinburgh.

Out of HEAU sprung Positive Action in Housing (PAiH), an independent membership-led charity launched in June 1995 by the Lord Provost at Glasgow City Chambers. The organisation led by chief executive Robina Qureshi, with a small team of dedicated staff and volunteers, now provides vital housing casework, training, destitution support and human rights campaigns. They provide life-changing solutions for those with no hope.

In March 2018, Robina and her team were at the forefront of challenging Serco’s treatment of asylum seekers and refugees in Glasgow. Robina said: “We first highlighted the abuses being carried out by Serco with the support of journalist Karin Goodwin. This set off a chain of closer investigative reporting into Serco’s tactics. Within four months, Serco was announcing that it would carry out a mass eviction in July 2018.

“In fact, they were doing it anyway, locking people out, changing their locks, dumping a few belongings in black bags, going into people’s private belongings looking for signs of their legal case. Why was this allowed because if you carry the label ‘asylum seeker’ your classed as a sponger or sub-human not deserving of human rights?”

In July that same year, Robina cut short her annual leave to contact every one of PAiH’s 38,000 subscribers to ask them to speak-out against mass lock change evictions. A public demonstration was hastily organised at the steps of the Buchanan Galleries and hundreds of Glaswegians turned up in solidarity with PAiH.

As Robina explains: “We put our hearts and souls into highlighting the inhumanity of Serco’s actions. This was not about illegal migrants as they liked to portray, or people wanting free rent or heating, it was a story about people wanting to rebuild their lives, get jobs, pay taxes like the rest of us. It was important to challenge this. If we don’t speak out on these abuses then it will happen again and again, Glasgow was the frontline of their hostile environment and they picked the wrong place to do this.”

Around this time, Govan Law Centre raised the first case in Scotland’s supreme court to interdict Serco and the Home Office from carrying out lock-change evictions, and Serco agreed to put all of their cases on hold. Last week, the application seeking leave to appeal to the Supreme Court in London was lodged and the fight goes on.

Chris Stephens, MP for Glasgow South West, said: “When I was treasurer of Glasgow City UNISON, trade union members were vocal in their support for any financial appeal or to support any campaigns PAiH carried out. Since being elected to Parliament their support on issues like the eviction of asylum seekers, their research and real-life examples were crucial in MPs raising harrowing cases in Parliament.”

For Glasgow MSP Anas Sarwar, the need for Robina and her team has never been clearer: “PAiH have always fought for those that often feel like they have no one to fight for them. They have given voice to the voiceless. They have never been scared to challenge and therefore deliver for people”.

That view is shared by Paul Sweeney, former city MP. He said: “In my time representing this great city, PAiH has been a charity in the best traditions of grass roots activism and socialist solidarity that makes us so resilient as Glaswegians.

“The hardship, psychological torture and destitution faced by some of the most vulnerable people in the world who have fled to our city for sanctuary has been appalling to witness, yet the community response, led by Robina at PAiH and the network of other organisations supporting asylum seekers and refugees in Glasgow, has been humbling and empowering.”