Daryl Williams (third from left) and the Promoting Independence team from South Yorkshire Housing Association
The government has not yet met its pledges to address homelessness, but there are people working tirelessly to step in where policy fails. These are the Changemakers offering hope to those for whom finding a safe, comfortable and affordable home is an ongoing struggle.
Social enterprise Lendology works with councils to lend cash to people who can’t afford to insulate their homes in the fight against rising energy bills and climate change. The low-cost lender offers a way for private renters and others who can’t access credit elsewhere to carry out essential work on their properties. Emma Lower (above), Lendology CEO, tells us why getting the word out about the social enterprise’s work is the big goal for 2024.
What was your proudest moment in 2023?
“Being awarded our B Corp accreditation in 2023 was a testament to our commitment to people, communities and the planet. It makes me proud to know that our loans do good not just for our borrowers, but for the local economy and climate.”
What are you hoping to achieve in 2024?
“It’s going to be another busy year! Our marketing budget is small and our most common piece of feedback from our clients is ‘I wish I’d known about you sooner’. Across 2024, I want to create closer strategic relationships with key charities supporting people in their homes, to ensure we have a robust referral process in place.”
How do you make a difference in modern Britain?
“Access to a warm, safe and energy-efficient home is an essential need, but for many homeowners making that happen is tough. We challenge mainstream lending with our decisions powered by people and partnerships, providing access to finance to people who may find themselves excluded.”
Mike Farrington – Concrete Rose
“Unwavering and invaluable” are the words used by this Changemakers nominator to describe Mike Farrington’s work. In 2020 Farrington established Concrete Rose CIC, a Community Interest Company where he provides accommodation and support to young care-experienced people across Cambridge City, South Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. Last year he expanded to providing mentors to care-experienced students at the University of Cambridge. His nominator wrote: “He supports young people who don’t have anyone else to support them and steps up when other professionals like social workers, the police and local authority housing departments fail.”
While running night shelters in Birmingham, CEO Christy Acton came up with the idea of Standing Tall, a charity offering a creative solution to match people with a stable job and a safe home across London, Birmingham and Manchester. People looking to let a spare room can rent to Standing Tall, guaranteeing them payment for six months, while helping someone get back on their feet. Forward-thinking businesses are matched with candidates who’ve experienced homelessness and are turning their lives around. Described as “the Airbnb for good”, Standing Tall has been running for four years and Acton’s nominator wrote: “Too many people are homeless. Christy is tackling it in a way that provides dignity.”
Homes For Good
The supply of affordable housing in Scotland has fallen 20% in three years, so low-income households are increasingly forced to seek homes in the private rented sector. Unfortunately, over 75% of private landlords do not rent to people receiving state benefits. As a result, low-income tenants struggle with affordability, insecurity and poor conditions. Since 2014, Homes For Good has been proving it is possible to operate profitably by letting good-quality homes at affordable rents to people on low incomes in Glasgow and the west of Scotland. The charity raised £20 million in social investment to create its portfolio, including £3 million from Big Issue Invest. Their nominator wrote: “Homes For Good is not only driving up standards but also improving the health and wellbeing of tenants, who can use the stability provided as a springboard for success in other areas of their lives.”
Jennifer-Anne Smith is the chief executive of Loaves and Fishes, a charity supporting homeless, isolated and vulnerable people in Salford. Since joining as chief executive, her nominator wrote that she has made positive changes in the way the organisation operates, leading with a trauma-informed approach. Smith also sits on the Health and Wellbeing Board, is a public life commissioner for the Salford Poverty Truth Commission and is a part of Greater Manchester Police’s IAG board. Smith’s nominator wrote: “She attends a lot of these out-of-work hours, as she is passionate about creating positive changes for local people. The world needs more people like Jenni who stand up and shout about what people are facing to try and get statutory organisations to listen.”
Hotel School, a London charity, has been helping people experiencing homelessness for the past six years. It teaches hospitality skills to match them to sustainable employment and support them closely in their first steps into work. The intensive 12-week training course is led by trauma-informed experts, and each student is carefully matched with a suitable organisation. The charity wants to inspire people into the hospitality sector where there is a shortage of staff. Their nominator wrote: “As a result of the housing emergency the Hotel School graduates need more support than ever – making the charity’s work of paramount importance.”
For more than 50 years, Davis, under the aegis of Wilmslow & District Furniture Recycling, has been collecting unwanted household goods, clothes and furniture to help people experiencing homelessness and to support those unemployed and low-paid in Manchester and Cheshire. Now in his 80s, Davis runs a drop-in centre where people can come to chat over a hot drink and a sandwich and browse for clothing, bedding and household items. His nominator wrote: “Andrew’s work is becoming more and more relevant, where people are struggling with bills and are finding it ever harder to make ends meet.”
Yellow Brick Road Projects
Yellow Brick Road Projects in Hampshire is a charity that works with people under the age of 35 with one aim: to prevent youth from experiencing homelessness. Their work began out of frustration that young people were being under-served in modern-day Britain. So far, Yellow Brick Road Projects has directly supported 1,214 young people to get and sustain a tenancy. It also helps them to develop life skills, such as how to handle finance, home matters, health and wellbeing, career advice and relationships.
Nadia Gibany – Nitelight CIC
Nitelight CIC started in 2020 as a response to the Covid pandemic as a cashless aid providing food and drinks to the people who need it most. Through their website, customers can purchase food, drinks, snacks, full meals and hygiene products, and the money goes to cafes and restaurants, who then give out these free items to the people who need them. Nadia’s nominator wrote: “Nitelight CIC has done incredible work in supporting people experiencing homelessness in and around the Middlesbrough area. Nadia has further grown the charity so that they now support people with free market stalls, a cafe and place where they can go to clean their clothes and have a hot shower.”
Daryl Williams is the programme lead at South Yorkshire Housing Association, a charity tackling homelessness, mental health and addiction through supportive accommodation with wraparound support. His nominator wrote that Williams goes “above and beyond and is genuinely passionate about what he and his organisation is trying to accomplish”. Supported by Big Issue Invest, the South Yorkshire Housing Association has been able to deliver the Promoting Independence social outcomes contract which works with individuals with mental ill health, who are living in 24/7 care homes, to achieve their independent living goals and step into the community.
This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine, which exists to give homeless, long-term unemployed and marginalised people the opportunity to earn an income.