I'm Amy Varle, a solo 'social entrepreneur' - really, just an ordinary girl with a big dream. I want to end and prevent homelessness across the world. I know this sounds a little crazy, but I do have a plan. And I've already made a pretty good start. Over the last four years, I've helped to permanently house over one hundred UK households, saving our government in excess of £2.5 million* in the process. Despite this, I am totally unfunded in my work.
I started out homeless myself, at the age of 16. My experience of temporary accommodation placements was poignant and left a lasting impression: to this day, I have a burning desire that I want to do something to help - and inner voice telling me that I can do something to help.
Once I found my way all those years ago, I naturally gravitated towards a career in supported housing and at 19, I began working for a local authority; helping vulnerable adults to successfully maintain independent tenancies. It was a job I enjoyed but found strangulating at times: a 9-5 in local government wasn't exactly the best setting for a person with such a creative brain.
Perhaps naively, at the time, I had convinced myself, my daughter, my long-suffering family (and pretty much anyone else that would listen) that all would come good once I had some really successful outcomes and effective results from my case study work. Surely, if I could formally demonstrate that my ideas worked - and that the implementation of them saved the public a sizeable sum of money - someone, somewhere, would pay me even just a small amount for doing all of this?
Social entrepreneurship is so under-supported in the United Kingdom I could weep. My experience to date has largely been that if you want to head up a social movement, or help humanity with a ground-breaking new idea, you better have seriously deep pockets - or, connections to people like the Queen.
The private sector, busy making money, admire all the good you're doing in the world - and concurrently settle on the idea that you are a 'charity' - and so, expect to never have to pay market-value (or even anything at all) for the services they receive. The public sector, collecting a chunky fixed salary whatever they do, have pre-determined ideas that you are an evil, corporate cash-cow who is there just to make money out of vulnerable people, and therefore, again, you should work for free. Its soul destroying at times, especially when you give everything and more to what you do.
Cash-flow is essential in any business - and mission-led enterprise is no different. With no finance or funding to rely upon, I have to be really creative in order to conduct practical research, demonstrate case study work and to promote proven concepts to others, in order to get underutilised homeless solutions into the mass-marketplace. Since 2013, I've worked tirelessly each day to bring new and innovative techniques to different sectors, free-sharing my knowledge, ideas and contacts for the benefit of communities and society. I do a lot of skill swapping and rarely work less than 14 hours each day; 90% of the work I undertake is unpaid.
A Breakthrough: Thankyou Sir Winston Churchill!
In 2016, I was thrilled to be awarded a travelling Fellowship from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, enabling me to venture all the way to America in in my quest to find homelessness solutions. This was more than a dream come true! With responsibility to create a 'report' on my trip, I have fulfilled this brief to the very best of my capabilities, spending the last 12 months creating my white paper: 'Social Property Investment: Pioneering Strategies for 21st Century Homelessness Prevention and Response'. I've pulled every bit of the important knowledge I've gained to create an 80-page public document which I hope will set the benchmark for homelessness address across developed nations. This will be available to all online from Autumn 2017.
Despite the fact I am now back to being unfunded in my work, 'Social Strategies' continue to thrive and produce incredible outcomes for participants - I'm proud to say I have saved our government millions of pounds; more so, that I see smiles on faces that money can't buy. There really is no greater feeling in the world than playing even just a tiny part in a person's success story. This is why I continue to do what I do.
I presently mentor a number of street-support services and on-the-ground respondents, as well as design educational tools and support programs for those exploring 'Housing First' strategies. I believe collaboration and empowerment are key to positive and long-lasting change and with your help, I am able to make impact on a much a wider scale.
With a 10 year plan to end UK street homelessness now at its completion, public support means we can align to launch a regional pilot scheme, whether we get finance and funding or not. Though it would be amazing to have the backing of decision makers, I aim to build an army of respondents, lead a movement of positive change and make a measurable difference to society, whatever happens. I'll keep sharing my work and hopefully successful address can be replicated across towns and cities, world-wide.
Can you help me?
Raising funds allows me to keep on doing what I do: facilitating creative housing and support options for the homeless, as well as formulate free and easily-accessible educational tools and learning resources - for non-profits, as well as the vulnerable individuals they support.
By backing me to develop new concepts and ideas, you not only make a measurable difference to the lives of the the disadvantaged people that we collectively house - you enable me to showcase this amazing collaborative work to a wider audience. This unified approach is making it possible for pioneering methods to be adopted UK-wide - and ultimately, across the globe.
Please support my campaign for a unified approach to homelessness that begins with Housing First - Because everybody deserves a home.
*Savings calculated via 'Making it Count' Crisis Cost Effectiveness Indicator Tools