Advertisement
Employment

Crowdfunding platform helps homeless people build careers they love

Gary and Shazmina are on sustainable career paths and have avoided homelessness. These are their stories.

Gary didn’t know anyone when he returned home to England from the US in 2019. He soon found himself homeless. But thanks to a unique crowdfunding platform – and the kindness of strangers – Gary was able to pay for training to become a plumber

“I didn’t have anyone here or anywhere to go, so ended up on the streets,” the 53-year old said.

He decided plumbing would be a good career for him because “helping people really makes me smile, and I like fixing things with my hands.”

Gary was put in touch with Beam, a social enterprise, by homeless charity St Mungo’s, who had given him somewhere to live.

After receiving career advice, he was able to use Beam’s crowdfunding platform, the world’s first for homeless people. In just nine days, 72 supporters helped him raise £919, which paid for travel to a plumbing course, tools, equipment and a laptop. He has now been working as a plumber for more than a year.

He said: “I haven’t looked back since. I am so thankful that I was given this opportunity. As I progress through work I am taking each job as a new experience paving the way for my future. Being in work has already helped improve my situation. It’s helping me look at life in a different way and it will allow me to take better care of myself, my bills and get me straightened out.”

Advertisement
Advertisement

Gary is one of nearly 700 homeless people who have been able to fund careers based on their unique strengths and interests thanks to Beam’s platform.

Another is Shazmina, who was at risk of losing her home after she lost her supermarket job at the start of the first lockdown in 2020 and her benefits weren’t enough to cover her rent.

The 35-year-old decided to focus on what brings her joy – working with children. She now has a job  as a support worker and is training  to be a teaching assistant after 137 supporters helped her raise £3,058 in 23 days. The money will cover her diploma, as well as childcare and travel.

The mum-of-three said: “I was sad, depressed and lonely a year ago. I had no hope, people were losing their jobs and rent was expensive, my benefits weren’t enough to pay for food for my kids and pay my rent. Treating my kids is all I’ve ever wanted to do and I can do that now. I honestly can’t believe things have changed so much in a year. It’s amazing to see how much better things are.”

Beam, one of six finalists in Nesta’s Rapid Recovery Challenge, helps marginalised people in London who are referred by a homeless charity or local council. They gain access to the Beam Hub, which offers employability tools with careers guidance to help them feel prepared and confident. They also receive one-to-one support, the opportunity to learn from their peers and taster days with employers to help them find a long-term career option.

Members of the public can also donate towards their training on their individual pages which give a fundraising target and a breakdown of how the money will be spent.

When people donate they can also send messages of support, while the people receiving help can post updates about their progress such as training courses or their first job.

Montana Gerry, Beam’s Head of Communications, said: “It’s all about boosting people’s confidence by using the power of the crowd. It’s hard for people to do a training course without accountability, but with encouraging messages, people are much more likely to achieve their goals.”

There are currently more than 20 homeless people crowdfunding their careers via Beam. You can support them here

As Covid restrictions ease, Beam says its candidates are in high demand.

Yasmina Kone, Senior Partnerships Manager, said: “It’s a really exciting moment. Our candidates are in a lot of demand because there has been a bounce back now that hospitality has opened again.

“It’s a candidate’s market with lots of live roles and lots of people trying to get back into work. It’s the best time for us to be doing the work we are doing.”

Get career tips and advice from our Jobs and Training series:

Advertisement

    Bigger Issues need bigger solutions

    Big Issue Group is creating new solutions through enterprise to unlock opportunities for the 14.5 million people living in poverty to earn, learn and thrive. Big Issue Group brings together our media and investment initiatives as well as a diverse and pioneering range of new solutions, all of which aim to dismantle poverty by creating opportunity. Learn how you can change lives today.

    Recommended for you

    Read All
    DWP staff are having to claim benefits themselves
    In-work poverty

    DWP staff are having to claim benefits themselves

    Exam board staff to strike on A-Level results day
    Strike action

    Exam board staff to strike on A-Level results day

    Working temperature: When is it too hot to work?
    Employment

    Working temperature: When is it too hot to work?

    Hundreds of Amazon warehouse workers stage wildcat strikes over 'pathetic' pay rise
    Strikes

    Hundreds of Amazon warehouse workers stage wildcat strikes over 'pathetic' pay rise

    Most Popular

    Read All
    All the places where kids can eat free during the summer holidays
    1.

    All the places where kids can eat free during the summer holidays

    This Twitter bot is exposing celebrities taking three-minute private jet flights
    2.

    This Twitter bot is exposing celebrities taking three-minute private jet flights

    Will free school meals and vouchers be offered over the summer holidays?
    3.

    Will free school meals and vouchers be offered over the summer holidays?

    Estate agents caught saying they don't rent homes to people on benefits
    4.

    Estate agents caught saying they don't rent homes to people on benefits

    Keep up to date with the Big Issue. The leading voice on life, politics, culture and social activism direct to your inbox.