The Real Change campaign

Monday, 8 October 2018 - 3:42pm

How we’re using partnerships and positive language to help the public respond to visible homelessness.

Two homeless women
Photography by Elizabeth Pennington

Blog by Jenny Morris, Real Change Wigan & Leigh and Riverside Area Manager & Robbie Cowbury, Real Change Campaign Manager

The two questions people tend to ask when they notice homelessness on the rise is ‘what is being done about this?’ and ‘how can I help?’

We’re proud to say that as of this week Wigan & Leigh has an answer to those questions that we hope can make a big difference to people affected by homelessness. That is because on World Homeless Day we’ll be launch Real Change Wigan & Leigh, a public-facing fundraising campaign.

The Real Change campaign aims to raise funds from business and the public to support people in their local area experiencing homelessness. It uses funds generated to pay for items which directly help people to get off the streets or avoid homelessness: things like a deposit for a home, a training course, or clothes for a job interview.

Real Change is based on the Big Change initiative in Manchester, which has raised over £200k of additional funding to help end homelessness since it was established in late-2016. The Wigan & Leigh Campaign is part of an initiative to replicate the model across the 10 boroughs of Greater Manchester, which the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and Riverside Housing Group are funding jointly. If it works, we hope it can provide a template for how ‘alternative giving’ schemes can be successful nationwide.

The Big Change/Real Change model is not complicated, but there are a few key ingredients that we think are essential to doing it effectively:

  • Be positive about what people can do to help, not what they shouldn’t do. Keep messages simple, avoid casting judgement on whether people should give in the street, and use bold, abstract imagery rather than photos of people, especially if the photos you want to use might stigmatise people who are homeless.
  • Embed partnerships at the heart of the campaign, so that local groups and the community itself has ownership of it. Making a website and putting up a few posters is unlikely to have much impact, but people talking about it amongst their friends, family and co-workers does.

Funds raised should go into a central pool from which applicants apply directly, rather than to particular providers. It also means branding the campaign neutrally and not with the Council logo or one particular provider – it’s about the positive impact and not credit after all!

  • Reach out of normal circles to engage those who might not normally be involved in ending homelessness. The business community has a tangible interest in this, and are amongst the greatest advocates for the campaign. In Manchester, the support of the City Co Business Improvement District has been vital, and in Wigan & Leigh, we’re lucky to have the backing of procurement group Fusion 21 to kick-start our fund.
  • It’s not just money that businesses or others can provide either, but time, skills and items which might all make the difference! The same goes for colleges and universities, faith groups, or the whole range of community groups who are likely to have an interest in this and something to offer.

There are definitely times when it would have been easier not to follow these principles, and we won’t claim to be getting them all exactly right either. We’re confident however that in the end, it will make a difference, to the amount of money we hope to raise, yes, but also to the budding partnerships between the different groups active in the borough. Wigan & Leigh will provide a lot of learning for other areas looking to do the same, so we would encourage people to follow us on twitter at @RealChangeGM and keep an eye out for further news. And of course, if you’d like to make a Real Change to homelessness in Wigan & Leigh, then you can donate here or share info about the campaign with your networks!