“HOMELESSNESS is not just for Christmas,” says the founder of Beam, Alex Stephany. Beam is a crowdfunding website set up to help homeless people to train for employment and then find work.
Beam has been running for more than a year, and so far has helped 17 people to find work. A new person joins the programme each week. Speaking on Tuesday, Mr Stephany said that it had gone “better than we ever hoped; we think we are building the most effective model”.
Homeless people are nominated to the organisation by charities, including Shelter and St Mungo’s, and are then given an employment plan, and a target to fund that plan. After a profile is built for them on the website, members of the public can fund individuals or set up monthly donations, which it is hoped will lead to their securing a job and finding a way out of their precarious state.
Mr Stephany said that the most “heartwarming” part of it was when people who had previously been in the system ended up funding new members.
He explained why Beam was so effective: “Crowdfunding is an excellent way of removing financial barriers to training, and we also provide funding for transport, tools, and childcare for single mums. It also builds new support networks, as the average campaign is funded by more than 200 individuals, which is great for their self-esteem.
“People feel very powerless when it comes to homelessness, and so, through this model, people can see the impact they’re having, and receive updates from the people they have helped in the future. It is a lot more fulfilling.”
The idea came to him after he developed a friendship with a homeless person. “I got to know a homeless man at my local station; I would buy him coffee, small gestures like new socks, but I could see his condition deteriorating. I asked myself: ‘What can I do to make a lasting difference?’
“As a society, we spend far too long writing off people, and there are millions of people out there with potential. Social problems have social solutions.”
One person who is part of the Beam process, Javad, is currently looking for a job in the construction sector after he was able to complete his training, thanks to the crowdfunding. “It was fantastic to be able to complete my training,” he said on Tuesday. “I was disappointed in my life: I felt like I had wasted my studies and experience. They gave me a new life.”
He signed up with Beam after he saw a leaflet in the YMCA, where he was living, and his adviser recommended him to the organisation. “It gave me hope after I was so disappointed with my life and I could not find a normal job any other way.
“It is very hard to find a job in the construction industry, and so Beam was very helpful. . . I have a lot of experience, but I wasn’t familiar with the industry in this country.”
Javad, a Christian, said that the reason why he left his home country, Iran, was because he converted to Christianity. He said that his faith had helped him, “because sometimes I need to pray and be alone with God”.
One reason why homelessness is currently so bad in this country, Mr Stephany said, was a “failure of the technology sector”, which “hasn’t contributed as fully as it could have done to solving social problems”.
He encouraged anyone who was interested to set up a monthly donation, even if it was just £2. “Most homeless people in this country have a roof over their head, but just haven’t had the opportunities in employment that other people have had.”