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.”
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:
When most people think about the Big Issue, they think of vendors selling the Big Issue magazines on the streets – and we are immensely proud of this. In 2022 alone, we worked with 10% more vendors and these vendors earned £3.76 million in collective income. There is much more to the work we do at the Big Issue Group, our mission is to create innovative solutions through enterprise to unlock opportunity for the 14million people in the UK living in poverty.