The number of people sleeping rough on the streets has become a national emergency. Almost three times as many people are going without a roof over their head than in 2010.

But people aren’t just sitting by and watching this happen. There are some amazing people tackling these challenges head on:-

Our very own unsung heroes

They may not be the kind of people you normally hear about. Often, they don’t get the awards or media coverage they deserve. But, they are making a lasting difference in their communities by coming up with practical ways to help rough sleepers, or even end rough sleeping for good.

We believe that there are many more people who could follow in their footsteps.

That’s why we launched a challenge to find them, celebrate them, and help others emulate them.

Whether they are business owners, former homeless people, students or ordinary citizens, what matters is that they’ve stepped up and taken responsibility for turning this country around. They’re showing us that we all have the ability to make change happen. 

We wanted to reward these people for their amazing efforts. By drawing attention to their work, we aim to show what individuals, companies, councils and government departments across the country can do to make a change.

What an incredible response

In just a matter of weeks we had over 60 fantastic entries. Our judges then had the hard task of narrowing them down based on:

  • Potential for scalability
  • Potential for replicability
  • Empowerment of rough sleepers
  • Empowerment of the public to support rough sleepers
  • Innovation
  • Impact

All the entries represent people doing incredible work. Our judges spent a long time identifying the ones that had the greatest impact on us – not an easy task!

We’re excited to announce that the winners are…

(in no particular order)

Barry Edwards and Gary Hoare of Somewhere to Go

Barry Edwards and Gary Hoare

In 2018, Barry Edwards and Gary Hoare changed the face of rough sleeping in Weston-super-Mare. Having already identified a gap in provision, the ‘Beast from the East’ in February 2018 drove them to spring into action much quicker than planned.

Rough sleepers were housed in a hastily organised shelter during a time when the weather would have provided a significant risk to those on the streets. Barry and Gary, along with a team of dedicated volunteers and coordinators, have shown what’s possible in such a short period of time, and it’s only grown since then.

Alex McCallion of Greater Change

Alex McCallion is the founder of Greater Change, a social enterprise that aims to break down the barriers between the physicalities of being on the streets and an increasingly cashless, digital world.

Profiles of homeless individuals and their specific plight can be viewed online. Donations are then made for individuals’ causes, via their support worker, removing the common concern that cash may not get spent in the right way.

Daniel Atkins of Buses4Homeless

Two years ago, Daniel Atkins came across a man sleeping rough in a bus luggage compartment. The impact it had drove him to do something about it – he bought and refurbished a decommissioned bus for the man to live in.

Daniel now runs the innovative charity Buses4Homeless refurbishing buses for eating, sleeping and learning.

Dave Graham and Glenn Cooper of Homeless Stories

Glenn Cooper and Dave Graham

In 2018, having seen homelessness increase in their home town of Hove, and inspired by the video platform Humans of New York, Dave Graham and Glenn Cooper set up Homeless Stories.

Along with a committed crew, they use the power of video to tell and share the stories of rough sleepers. Not only does this raise awareness, but it also has the positive knock-on effect of attracting wider engagement and collaboration opportunities from other organisations.

Frances O’Donnell of City Ambition Network

Frances O’Donnell

Frances is a keyworker for City Ambition Network, developing collaboration and partnerships between significant local services and organisations like the NHS, the local council and the third sector.

The hard work of Frances and other City Ambition Network key workers has led to new ways of working, new processes and new solutions. For rough sleepers, this makes the process of gaining support much more streamlined, effective and dignified. By joining forces in the Glasgow area, they now provide intensive support and positive change to the people who need it most, but often receive it least.

Lee Pepper of North East Derbyshire Council

Lee Pepper

In another great example of bringing people and local services together, Lee uses collaboration, innovation and creativity in his work for North East Derbyshire Council to help develop new projects to tackle homelessness.

In times of limited budgets, Lee’s commitment to building partnerships and breaking down silos shows what can be achieved when different services come together. Lee and the team fill gaps in service provisions for those who are already homeless, and identify interventions to reduce the likelihood of homelessness. In particular, they set up a forum to develop and consult on projects – something that has really bought local stakeholders together.

Patrick Harris of The Bridge Leicester

Patrick Harris

19 years ago, Patrick became homeless following a relationship breakdown and spent 2 years sleeping rough in local parks before securing a place in a hostel. His personal experience of how isolating homelessness can be led him to volunteer at a night shelter, and then a soup kitchen.

Patrick is now Team Leader and Outreach Worker at The Bridge Leicester. The charity aims to become a hub where local agencies can provide relevant services. The centre already provides meals, an advice centre, art therapy classes, and a mental health programme.

Maeve McClenaghan of Bureau of Investigative Journalism

Maeve McClenaghan

Having worked in investigative journalism for 8 years, Maeve decided a year ago to start investigating and logging how and when people are dying homeless across the UK.

Maeve’s work sparked parliamentary and public debate and led to the Office for National Statistics to produce official data on the subject, increasing transparency and knowledge on this sector of the public.

Paul Ryan of Cafe Art

Paul Ryan

Paul is the co-founder of Cafe Art, a social enterprise that produces calendars created by homeless and formerly homeless people.

Rough sleepers work in London markets to sell the calendars. Paul and his team, including Sarah Caldwell-Watson, James Gray and Richard Fletcher, show that it is still possible to get a project off the ground and make it a success without a big budget. The profits made on the calendars are split between the sellers and Cafe Art where it’s invested into a variety of different projects.

Matt Watts of Reed Watts Architects

Matt Watts

As an architect, Matt Watts believes that his profession has an opportunity, and responsibility, to do good in the world.

A competition run by a housing charity spurred Matt on to identify a problem he knew he could fix. Whilst the organisations that provide night shelters do an amazing job with very limited budgets, the accommodation is basic, with a large number of people in one room. This means that it’s hard to find privacy, keep your belongings safe, or get a good night’s sleep.

Matt put his experience of design and construction to good use and came up with cheap, easy to assemble, temporary sleeping pods. The pods provide those in shelters with privacy, dignity and a sense of control over their surroundings, without reducing the number of people who can be accommodated in the shelter.

And finally, an Honourable Mention goes to Nicola Baird of The Pavement

Nicola Baird

Nicola Baird is editor of The Pavement magazine, a free publication providing an invaluable resource for rough sleepers and people who are insecurely housed.

The magazine’s contributors are volunteers, many of whom have experienced homelessness themselves. The Pavement covers themes like wellbeing, women’s experience of homelessness, hidden homelessness, toilet talk (places to pee), shame, and suicide.

And now, over to you …

Over the coming weeks we’ll be sharing more about these inspiring people and their work including interviews, insights and practical advice.

If you’ve been thinking about doing more to help rough sleepers, now might just be the time.

The judging panel

We were pleased to have a diverse judging panel of third sector professionals, activists, social entrepreneurs and former rough sleepers.

A little more about our judges:

  1. Andy Muzondiwa, Founder of Free Zimbabwe and co-chair of the Migrant Destitution Action Group within the Manchester Homeless Partnership.
  2. Claire Mansfield, Director of Research at Social Enterprises UK.
  3. Geraldine Crimmins, artist and photographer. Geraldine was once a homeless addict. She also runs a mentoring program with Café Art helping people affected by homelessness to re-engage with society through creativity.
  4. Ian Kearns, Chair of the Hatch Top 20 Judging Panel, Board Member at the European Leadership Network, Public Affairs Adviser to New Tech, writer and thinker about digital and international affairs.
  5. Iver Morgan, Head of Volunteering at St Mungo’s.
  6. Lord John Shipley, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Housing in the House of Lords.
  7. Kajal Odedra, UK Director at Kajal has worked in the campaigns and tech sector for over 10 years, is an advisor for the women in STEM group Ada’s List, and founded the People of Colour in Campaigns network.
  8. Mary Bridie, Partnerships Liaison at Greater Change. Mary used to be homeless until she was helped into housing by the charity Greater Change, who she now works for.
  9. Neil Coyle MP, Co-Chair of Homelessness All-Party Parliamentary Group.
  10. Paul Noblet, Head of Media & Public Affairs at Centrepoint.
  11. Sophie Price, Enterprise Development Manager, Homeless Link.
  12. Terry Stacy, Chair of the Albert Kennedy Trust and senior adviser at the Local Government Association.