Making a Real Change to homelessness in your area
Big Change MCR is an alternative giving programme that, in its first two years, raised nearly £200,000 from businesses and the public. These funds were directly distributed to 750 people with a history of rough sleeping to cover essential costs, including ID, rent deposits, or clothes for a job interview.
With street begging driving up public concern around homelessness and budgets continuing to be squeezed, Riverside enlisted the help of Homeless Link and Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham to look at how a flexible personalised fund like Big Change could benefit other places in Greater Manchester, and maybe beyond. The result was Real Change Wigan & Leigh, launched by the newly established local partnership, with support from Wigan Council and a grant from construction and procurement specialists Fusion 21. Since then, local partnerships have launched campaigns in Rochdale and Oldham. Meanwhile, a sister scheme spearheaded by a Riverside Area Manager launched at the other end of the country in Guildford, Surrey. From a standing start, they have raised over £50,000, already helping over 100 people who were homeless or at risk of homelessness.
An evaluation of Real Change Wigan & Leigh’s first six months found that two thirds of applicants had since moved into places of their own, and none were rough sleeping (up from 30% at applications). A resounding 95% of applicants felt positive or very positive about their future a month on from making an application. These figures are backed up by the stories of people who accessed the fund and the difference it made to their lives, which you can read on the local campaign sites.
While Riverside has helped to incubate this work, the success of the Real Change model is thanks to the energy, initiative and support of partners like Sanctuary Trust in Rochdale or Action Together in Oldham who Chair the local ‘action groups’. The model relies on the expertise of Local Authority communications and marketing teams to pull together the materials which will get the word out amongst local people. To raise funds, it relies on the enthusiasm of groups like Wigan primary schools, a community church in Guildford, or the Oldham Youth Council. This partnership approach isn’t just about keeping costs down: it’s why the public get behind Real Change.
To help others learn from the experience of Greater Manchester, Riverside have pulled together the Real Change brand, tools, templates and resources into a simple toolkit, available to anyone who signs up to the campaign principles. If your area is experiencing high levels of visible rough sleeping and street activity, we’d be happy to share these with you and help you understand how flexible, personalised funds can redistribute resources and prevent anyone from having to sleep rough or beg on the street. The toolkit includes:
- A roadmap to follow in setting up your local campaign, and scorecard to work out if it’s right for you.
- Info on the people, roles and expertise you’ll need to make it work
- Application forms, monitoring forms and templates for all the policies and procedures you might need
- A professional, free-to-use brand with pre-designed artwork for you to adapt to your local area
- Fundraising and marketing ideas to try in your campaign
We’ve seen from the Real Change projects that this model can have a significant impact on people who are homeless, as well as public attitudes and local partnership working. We’ve also seen how much hard work it can be, and identified some of the essential components for success – the toolkit includes a simple assessment of whether alternative giving is right for your area, or if other activities should take priority. Where the circumstances are right, we hope the toolkit and resources will help you to make a difference to homelessness in your area.
The Real Change Roadmap and Toolkit for setting up your own alternative giving campaign are available below. To access the full suite of resources, please contact Robbie Cowbury, Campaigns Manager at Riverside, on Robbie.email@example.com.
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Robbie is Campaigns Manager at Riverside.