Crowdfunding site Beam provides job training for homeless 'in a dignified way'
LONDON -- His name is Tony, and for the last few years he’s been living in British hostels.
In other words, he’s among the 300,000 people considered homeless in the United Kingdom.
“I have plenty of regrets about my past, which I can’t change,” he told CTV News.
But he can change the future and that’s now happening. Tony is on track to become a qualified electrician by September 2018, turning around a life that left him broken and living on handouts.
“Being in and out of a hostel is just sad,” he said. “You lose all enthusiasm for life.”
He is among the first to benefit from a high-tech project to use the internet and crowdfunding to help the homeless.
The founder is an entrepreneur by the name of Alex Stephany who created a parking app, and turned that experience into what he calls a “social impact business.”
It’s called Beam, as in Be Amazing.
“What we’re trying to build is a really large scale model that can help homeless people access long term employment in a dignified way,” he told CTV News.
It’s the crowd funding aspect that takes this project to a new level. Those in need—and likely to succeed—are recommended by an advisory group of 14 British charities. A fund-raising campaign then goes up on the Beam website; those accepted are called “members.” So far, a dozen people have qualified and Beam has a target of helping 100 homeless in its first year. That’s ambitious.
“We sit down with the charity,” said Stephany, “we sit down with the individual, and we work out what their own career plans are, and the financial barriers they face.”
The target for Tony’s electrician training was 4,378 British pounds (about $7,500 Cdn). Rachid’s target was $1,472 to become a delivery driver. Khyreya needed $9,109 to become a nursery school assistant. Some of that money was used to pay for child care while she went to school.
The organizers say there is complete transparency. Donors can see where the money is being spent and the homeless can watch their target amount as it grows online. One of the expenditures was a hard hat for Tony.
So I ask Alex Stephany, the founder, what’s in it for him?
“I would speak to someone who was sleeping rough, buy them a cup of coffee, and that was a nice thing to do,” he said. “But the problem I really had was, how can I take a small amount of money in my pocket and combine it with lots of other people who have small amounts in their pockets—and make a smart investment in somebody’s future?“
The answer was crowdfunding that not only provides the homeless with work, but restores a sense of pride and self-confidence.
Like Tony, who has two sons and wants to become a good provider again.
“It’s made a lot of difference to me,” he said. “It’s given me some goals. It’s given me some ambition.”