Homelessness is the national emergency of our time. According to a recent report by the charity Shelter, there are currently 320,000 people recorded as homeless across the country. Many of these are hidden homeless: people living in temporary accommodation and lacking the financial support to move forward.
We sat down with Alex Stephany, founder of Beam, to talk about the role of tech in helping to solve this crisis.
“I got to know a homeless person near my local station; I would buy him coffee and socks when it got cold. It became obvious to me that although I was giving nice things to this man, they weren’t helping him. So I asked myself: What can I do to make a lasting difference?”.
For Alex Stephany, the answer was empowering homeless people to support themselves sustainably through employment training. “Of course, that kind of investment would cost much more than coffee and socks, but what if everyone chipped in?
“If we can raise millions of pounds for a tech company, why can’t we raise a couple of thousand pounds for an individual?”, he explained.
Kickstarter for the homeless
In 2017, Alex launched an online platform, Beam, that crowdfunds employment training for homeless people to help them rebuild their lives. Since its launch, it has helped 21 people find work, many of whom have moved into permanent accommodation, and is helping many others go through training.
The tech start-up wants to provide a long-term solution to “removing the financial barriers that exist for homeless people, including employment training or childcare for single mums”. It works by allowing members of the public to fund individuals or set up monthly donations to help homeless people get back into work.
“We’re able to provide amazing transparency on the impact that you’re having”, says Alex. Supporters can see the story of the person they’ve donated money to, as well as their funding and employment plan and how they’re progressing. “It’s very fulfilling”.
Alex said that the most “powerful” part is is the confidence-building. “A lot of people who come to us feel like people don’t fundamentally care about them. But having their campaign funded, and all the messages of support and encouragement they receive, really changes how people perceive themselves”.
Find out more about how you can crowdfund someone’s way out of homelessness here.
Here’s 5 other great things you can do to help end homelessness.
Credit: Beam Media.