Tributes Paid To Chiswick Founder of Homeless Charity

Tony Denison used construction industry to help the homeless


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Former Chiswick resident Tony Denison, (89) who died recently, was founder of the Crash charity for homeless people which he originally set up in the garage of his house in Staveley Road. He lived for many years in Chiswick and the charity is still based here, having moved to offices in the Barley Mow.

Born Patrick Anthony Denison in Kensington and educated at Charterhouse, followed by Sandhurst, he saw service in the Western Desert in World War Two.He became a paratrooper in the SAS and was awarded the Military Cross.

He lived in St. Peter’s Square from 1961 to 1983, and then at Staveley Road from 1989 to 1998.

Crash ( Construction Industry Relief and Assistance for the Single Homeless) was established in 1991. He described in an interview to the Guardian in 2002 how he was prompted to take action after witnessing scenes of homelessness while he was on his way to a royal gala performance with his wife.

“It was late November and snow covered the ground. There were masses and masses of people sleeping rough all the way down to the theatre. I thought this really is obscene and that the construction industry ought to be capable of making a contribution to alleviate these conditions, as an industry that puts roofs over people's heads."

He used his extensive contacts in the industry to persuade the owners of vacant office buildings to loan them to homeless organisations, and then persuaded contractors to refurbish them. Holborn Viaduct and Marsham Street were the first two temporary shelters to receive help.

The charity still uses help and expertise from the property and construction industry to help homeless charities equip and refurbish hostels, night shelters and other forms of temporary accommodation. It does not receive any government help. The charity focuses on projects that help single, homeless people aged over eighteen.

Tony Denison was awarded an MBE in 1994 for services to single, homeless people. Though he stepped down from Crash as a trustee in 2002, he continued to work with homeless charity Stonepillow when he went to live in Chichester with his wife Ann.

He was a also competitive tennis player and during his time in Chiswick was a member of local clubs, including the Hogarth, and Riverside. As a young man he was selected for  the qualifying rounds for Wimbledon, only to retire from the qualifying match with an injury. He once respectably lost a match to Tim Henman’s grandfather. He continued skiing and playing tennis into his 80s.

Although he worked briefly as a stockbroker in the City, it was the contacts and knowledge he gained during his work in the manufacturing side of the construction industry, and his own Construction Market Research companies, that enabled him to harness the help of that industry when he needed it. CRASH Chief Executive Francesca Roberts said, “We owe Tony a great debt. He was absolutely ahead of his time in pioneering what is now referred to as the Big Society concept. He saw precisely how an industry could be brought together to share the very thing it is best at in order to help vulnerable people. Tony was always focused and inspiring, but so modest about the unique charity he had created and all it has achieved.”

In 1955 Tony married Rosalind Lawson, with whom he had three daughters, Amanda, Tessa and Jassy. Rosalind died in 1981. In 1989 he married Ann Nugent, a dance critic, with whom he shared his lifelong love of dance and the progressive arts. He is survived by Ann and his daughters.

April 30, 2012

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