It’s a shame this has to be my last post before departure but I won’t be able to rest if I just ignore this. I received this message a few days ago from a rough sleeper known to me from my time working at the Manchester Stock Exchange. I have been blocked by this person and can't reply privately so am responding to them here, without identifying them.
I so want to assist you in finding somewhere permanent to live, as I feel that stability is an essential stepping stone to your recovery and happiness. I have told you many times that I think you have a beautiful soul and so much to offer the world, despite the fact your actions haven’t always displayed this.
Your needs are as such that it is essential you receive an adequate level of support whilst rehabilitating into housing and a regular 9 – 5 life. At present People's Property Shop has no staff, volunteers, finance or funding, and so, alone, I am not the best person to provide this. However, as you know, I really want to help you as much as I can as I feel strongly that given the right opportunities, you could really make something of yourself.
A fresh new start isn’t always as easy as it sounds when you come from the chaotic drug and violence-fuelled world of the streets. My experience (I have worked within this field for around fifteen years and between 2013-2015 I conducted an extensive pilot scheme where I monitored over 100 homeless people I moved into housing in Greater Manchester) tells me that if I just give you the keys to a house, its likely you may end up back sleeping rough. Nobody wants to set someone up to fail.
Coupled with this is the difficulty we will encounter in finding a private landlord and suitable co-tenants who would be able to support you, and some of the erratic behaviours you at times present. Whist I am rational and calm when you randomly ring me up and shout abuse, its difficult to find colleagues and house-mates within the private rented sector who also will show you the same level of understanding. You need specialised support to help you work though some of your issues.
One option to consider for you was the project we discussed that I have been working on since 2014. A building owner approached me in East Manchester with a hostel which required extensive refurbishment work totalling 100k - but I knew it would be perfect for vision in my mind. I managed to find an investor who took ownership and undertook the work, which has just only recently been completed after a two year renovation job. The plan for this state-of-the-art accommodation was to run an intensive and innovative housing, rehabilitation and support service for rough sleepers, which we could then direct to permanent housing and jobs within the public or private sector once a person was ready to move on.
I went out into my vast network of contacts in the public, private and third sectors to get the help we needed in facilitating such a radical service. Alone with no funding, my idea was that if we each pooled our strengths, talents and resources in a more productive way, together we could end homelessness as we know it. It would also be very cost-effective for services working with a budget. We did a test run with a smaller project piloting in Oldham in 2014/2015 and it worked really well – the case study is on my website.
As much as these projects are not something I can facilitate on my own, I wouldn't want to anyway - the concept I promote is all about working together. I wanted us to create a project here which really showcased collaborative working - designed for the homeless, by the homeless. I wanted to give you all a little piece each, demonstrating in the process that joint working was the answer we were looking for.
I held a public meeting in anticipation of the building opening (thankyou to all that attended) and sent invitations to every single public and third sector organisation and agency in Manchester connected to working with the homeless, as well as my private sector colleagues and the rough sleeping community themselves. We talked about it numerous times if you remember. I was excited, imagining what we could collectively create with such an amazing building to work from, if every service in Manchester donated something like 2 hours a week?
Lets not embarrass anyone by naming names of who showed up and who didn’t. I'll just say we didn’t get the support we were looking for.
Here’s the only email I received from an attendee afterwards:
I really enjoyed hearing you speak with so much passion last week about your project. It was a big surprise to me that a fair few of the charitable organisations seemed really suspicious about what you were trying to do. Almost like you were muscling in on their territory...... However, I just wanted to say that I think what you are doing is really worthwhile and I think a really good idea to take steps to eradicate rather than just support homelessness. I would love to get involved in any way that I can.
Unfortunately, just me and this person is not going to be enough.
So, as the support we need for this project is simply not there at present, we are currently back to the drawing board of how we move forward. I'm looking at other options such as corporate sponsorship, crowd funding and angel investment. Some of these are being explored in the USA. Basically as it stands, if I want to open this building to rough sleepers, I must provide ALL of the support myself, free of charge, 24 hours a day. For 12 unknown males with challenging behaviours and a high level of varying need. (Crazy)
I don’t think this is fair to either me, or the people we would like to help.
Ultimately, what happens next is not my decision as I have no 'official' ownership of this building in any way - all of my work on this project to date since 2014 has been in a voluntary capacity.
My trip to the USA is funded by www.WCMT.org.uk who have made ten awards in the new approaches to affordable and sustainable housing category this year. Anyone is eligible to apply and they fund projects in a huge range of subjects, anywhere in the world. This could be something for you to strive for one day.
This is the only 2016 fellowship to conduct research into homelessness prevention and response and it has allowed the development of international relationships with some of the greatest pioneers and projects of this industry in the world. The study will enable the sharing of techniques and concepts which will benefit the whole of the UK. As you know better than most, homelessness is one of the most challenging social issues we face and we are crying out for new ideas. Findings will be valuable to all – and they will be freely available for everyone.
(This is why I keep my social media active with light-hearted and fun stuff – if people engage with my personal posts this means when I share something homelessness-related it it less likely to get lost in the news feed - and ultimately, more people will get to see the new concepts and ideas I share)
In answer to your question, what have I done since working at the Stock Exchange project (December 2015 – Present) – this certainly isn’t everything but will give you a brief run down:
Worked on the project above
Sourced accommodation for 9 vulnerable individuals
Supported countless landlords and investors face to face, by phone, email and social media
Created and launched a new website and brand
Hosted a networking event for North West HMO landlords and investors
Talked down a suicidal tenant and liaised with emergency services on numerous occasions
Designed, launched, promoted and hosted 2 workshops for Social Property Investors and agents
Attracted 14 new (active) investors to the marketplace
Prepared an international research study and itinerary
Created corporate sponsorship benefits packages as an alternative to public funding
Attracted four pro-bono service donors
Connected with 21 organisations in the USA
Attended 2 interviews/seminars in London in conjunction with my trip
Attracted seed capital investment interest
Worked with four mentors
Booked USA trip and meetings
Had around 30 skype meetings
Dealt with 12 media enquiries including BBC, C4, ITV - accepted 1 (Vice)
Started to look at creating a new finance option for the SPI model with a high street bank
Assisted Salford University's ‘Making Research Count’ project
Created a social media and marketing campaign
Supported a homeless hackthon
Attended 6 networking events
Assisted police with a murder enquiry of a homeless man
I understand your frustration but you must understand that you will never find happiness by venting your anger and internal pain onto others, especially those who are trying to help you. 95% of the work I've undertaken on the list above has been unpaid - I do this job because I love it and I care deeply about the people I encounter, not because I think one day it will bring me glory and trips to foreign lands. I want to help you but you must work on dropping the barriers you have around you and look to resolve your anger issues. I cannot continue to offer my friendship unless you stop lashing out at me when things don’t go your way. I am not the fairy godmother of homelessness and unfortunately I cannot solve the problems of every single homeless person I meet - as much as I would like to. I'm trying as hard as I can to do the very best I'm able.
I know you have now found some accommodation which I am thrilled for you about. Please grab this opportunity with both hands and take all of the support you can in getting back on your feet. When you are ready, I would be happy to assist you in taking your next steps forward, whatever that may be - but for now take things one day at a time. What do you want your life to be? Dream big and aim high but go slow and be easy on yourself. You've had a rough ride.
Please keep in touch with me whist I’m away - but please - try to stop abusing me via social media.
I hope you find peace soon.
Ps. I will put you in touch with those homeless organisations in the USA as I promised. I think you’ll be really impressed.
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