In the past year, more than 440 homeless people have died on Britain’s streets. Meanwhile, 77,000 households live in homeless hostels and other temporary accommodation, with homelessness costing the taxpayer over £1 billion a year.
Tech entrepreneur and founder of Beam, Alex Stephany, believes one of the solutions lies in empowering homeless people to get into skilled work – so they can sustainably support themselves and their families.
When Alex met a homeless man at his local Tube station, he began buying him coffees and socks. But as he watched the man’s condition deteriorate, he wondered what he could do to make a lasting difference. The man had never had a job – so Alex wondered if the answer lay in giving him the skills and training to support himself. That would cost a lot more than coffees and socks – but what if everyone chipped in?
Beam was born, based on the simple idea that people can come together and crowdfund employment training for homeless people. The hope was that the model could give one person at a time the chance to leave homelessness for good.
A year on, Beam has helped more than 50 homeless people, who they call their “members”. One such member is Davina. At university, a bright future lay before her before a distressing personal event forced her to leave her course. She became depressed and found herself homeless. Eventually, a support worker in her hostel introduced her to Beam who crowdfunded her accountancy training. Davina has passed many of her modules top of her class.
Beam also has the support of The Mayor of London – who funds its core costs alongside others. Beam is further supported by ambassadors Michelle Dewberry, businesswoman and former winner of The Apprentice, and James Bowen, multi-million selling author of A Street Cat Named Bob.
How does Beam work?
More than 15 registered homelessness charities including Shelter and St Mungo’s recommend people to the Beam platform.
Beam gives each member a case worker who helps them build a personalised career plan and supports them on their journey into stable work.
The public funds each member’s transparent campaign budget – donations can also be split equally between every member.
When the campaign funds, Beam purchases everything on behalf of members and supports them through training and into work.
Once settled in skilled work, members can set up their own monthly donations – becoming the patron of the next generation of Beam members.
This model is now changing the lives of people like Ryan. A retired member of the Household Cavalry, Ryan followed his dad into the army. But when his business failed and he lost his family, he became homeless. Beam and Ryan planned his next journey – training and working as an HGV driver.
Beam by Numbers
In the past year, the social enterprise has seen major success:
90% of homeless people to have completed the model are now in stable work
12 homeless people started employment and a further 27 homeless people in training
Received over 6,000 crowdfunded donations, including 400 regular monthly donors
Successfully funded 43 campaigns, with 100% of campaigns funded on time
Hana is one person behind those numbers. Hana and her 11-year old son had to flee their home in East Africa when they were in danger. Beam is now supporting Hana to become a beautician.
‘This time last year I felt hopeless. Every door was closed to me. But Beam provided the key to open that closed door – to a profession. And I’ve got big plans! After a few years working for a company, I want to open my own salon and spa.’
Hana has now passed her Level 2 Beautician training and is taking her Level 3.
‘We believe there are millions of people in the UK who empathise with homeless people and want to make a difference,’ says Beam CEO and Founder, Alex Stephany. ‘But too often people feel powerless to make that lasting difference.
Beam uses technology to now enable anyone to fund a homeless person’s training, empowering them to sustainably support themselves. But Beam is not just about donations. Beam also builds support networks for members, from the people who fund their campaigns. Today, over 300 people fund each campaign, hugely boosting the confidence of each member, and helping them to achieve employment.
‘This year’, says Stephany, ‘we proved Beam works. It’s been a team effort – including from our amazing members, brilliant charity partners and The Mayor of London. We believe homelessness will be solved when everyone plays their part – including charities, government, social enterprises and the public.’