Homeless Link are proud to celebrate Black History Month this year. Throughout October we have been running an internal learning program, where we have invited our staff to take part in educational activities, such as articles, videos and podcasts, around Black History that we hope will give an insight into the experiences and lives of black communities.
We have also been speaking to some of our members about Black History Month and they told us about its significance to their work. Click here to read the first instalment of this blog series.
Founded in 2015, Change Please is a social enterprise with a mission to combat homelessness through coffee.
Through their wholesale coffee sales team and retail sites across London, they offer coffee products to customers while funding the Foundation initiatives to help those experiencing homelessness.
Their Foundation Outreach team, called "Driving for Change", deploys three buses across London's boroughs to assist individuals sleeping rough on the streets. The Foundation also runs a Training Academy that provides barista training and offers a City & Guilds qualification.
Change Please believe that employment is the most sustainable solution to homelessness and by providing barista training they equip individuals with valuable skills for the coffee and hospitality sector. They also collaborate with their wholesale clients to create employment opportunities for their graduates which helps qualified baristas find jobs and work towards stable housing.
We spoke to Lee, who said:
"Change Please recognises the increasing numbers of homelessness among ethnic groups, particularly affecting Black communities, and the racial abuse and additional challenges facing Black people sleeping rough on the streets.
We aim to raise awareness of this during Black History Month by sharing information and statistics, amplifying the Black voices of our trainees, and educating our clients and partners that the staggering disparity of both poverty and homelessness strongly correlates with race.
Our intention at Change Please is to try and level the playing field for our Black trainees, providing specialty coffee training, paid work experience, employability workshops, a qualification, and an introduction to some of the biggest food and beverage organisations in the UK.
We are actively working to understand the demographics of our service users better and have introduced a Diversity and Inclusion questionnaire for trainees to complete during onboarding this ensures our training program is inclusive and supports all ethnicities. When assisting employment partners with recruitment we review their processes for discrimination and biases. Volunteers attend our employability workshops are helped with writing CV's and preparing for interviews and we are looking to run targeted volunteer campaigns to attract more Black people, as we experience underrepresentation here."
For Black History Month, Change Please recommended 38 books that recognised the contributions of Black people worldwide and invited staff members to share their personal experiences and connections to Black history.
They are also hosting two internal events at their Regents Place retail site to celebrate Black History Month, showcasing the importance of diversity and inclusion.
Refuge Network UK is a community interest initiative that provides weekly support to those experiencing homelessness via food banks, community kitchens, clothes banks, hygiene banks and digital and data banks. Since 2020, their community kitchen has supplied over a quarter of a million meals to people experiencing homelessness and disadvantaged individuals, regularly serving a buffet with over 40 options that cater to the nutritional needs of all backgrounds and ethnicities.
Last year, they held over 100 community events in London to support marginalised members of society.
Charles, the organisation’s founder and executive director, is of Black African heritage and proudly identifies as Black British. He said:
"Our organisation strives to promote diversity, with volunteers from over 80 countries and a variety of social backgrounds. Refuge Network is a safe space where every individual is welcomed, accepted, and celebrated, regardless of the colour of their skin.
For me, Black History Month is an opportunity to take time to explore the past to see where we are coming from, reflect on the present to see how far we have come, and look towards the future to see how far we can go and what we can accomplish, as Black people living in a modern world with new sets of challenges.
To celebrate Black History Month with our service users, volunteers and community we have designated Saturday 14th October as Black History Month Day. In addition to our regular meal selection, we will be adding a number of special Afro-Caribbean dishes to our buffet menu on the day to commemorate the month. We have also sent out encouragement, where possible, for interested team members to wear clothing reflecting Black culture."