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Alex Stephany, Founder of Beam has sent us this blog, explaining the work that Beam does and how it is relevant to other homelessness services.

The rising cost of living is pushing people into poverty and homelessness: discrimination and hostile policies are keeping them there. Kindness, not criminalisation, is the solution.

Getting Started

In 2014, I left the tech startup I was running, having grown disillusioned with the tech sector’s inaction toward social problems.

San Francisco was the pinnacle of this disconnect. Alongside nightmarish levels of street homelessness and deprivation was unimaginable wealth: with almost 1 in 10,000 residents a billionaire. These were the human faces of failing systems.

I’d volunteered at Crisis for Christmas but realised more was needed. I wanted to use the positive power of tech to help underserved communities.

From the start, we wanted advice from the best homeless charities. I sought guidance from experts like Jeremy Swain and Matt Harrison. Matt’s words in the early days have always stuck with me, “People have ideas to solve homelessness, but they often fade by Christmas.” I reflect now on the clarity, resolve and collaboration needed to get Beam to where it is today.

Teaming up with Seb Barker, my co-founder with extensive experience in working in rough sleeping, substance misuse, and health, we devised scalable, personalised solutions to address two of the root causes of homelessness: housing instability and unemployment.

After experimentation, we hit on a hybrid crowdfunding-caseworker model to eliminate financial and personal barriers to leaving homelessness. Collaborative efforts with Centrepoint, St. Mungo’s, The Connection at St Martin’s, Thames Reach and others helped create Beam’s first operational model. I share the full story of how Beam started in this TEDx talk.

The model won innovation grants from the Mayor of London and Nesta in 2017 and first prize at the London Homelessness Awards in 2018. And we haven’t looked back.


At Beam, we champion people in challenging circumstances to rebuild their lives and shape their futures. Here’s how it works:

  1. Referral: Councils and charities refer people experiencing or at risk of homelessness to Beam.
  2. Triage and Risk Assessment: Ensuring Beam is the right service for individuals is paramount. Occasionally, people need support that we’re not best placed to provide. In such cases, we’ll always signpost people to the right services, like Crisis and Shelter for emergency housing advice or Samaritans for mental health support. Individuals may work with these organisations alongside Beam or re-engage with us when they’re ready to find and sustain a job and a home.
  3. Action Plan: People meet their Beam caseworker to develop a bespoke employment or housing plan, complete with comprehensive risk assessments.
  4. Crowdfunding: We launch crowdfunding campaigns on our site to overcome individuals’ financial barriers, covering expenses like rental deposits, childcare, training courses, and travel. Donors leave supportive messages, fostering a sense of community as individuals work towards their goals.
  5. Casework and Sustainment: Our caseworkers give training on core skills like property searching, tenancy training, budgeting, digital skills, CV writing, and interview preparation—ensuring safe, sustained transitions into housing and employment.

Our non-competitive approach guarantees 100% success in funding campaigns, only bringing on new campaigns once existing ones have been funded. Donors can support specific campaigns, but the vast majority give monthly, which allows Beam to distribute donations non-discriminately, promoting fairness and equal support. Over 80% of donations are distributed in this way via an algorithm that ensures campaigns are funded at an almost identical rate.

In addition, Beam operates a 100% giving model, guaranteeing that every donation exclusively benefits individuals experiencing homelessness. How? Donations are deposited into a ring-fenced charity bank account, while a social enterprise partners with local and central government to help cover operating costs.

From the outset, our model proved successful. Tony, our first user whose story was first covered by Time Out, needed training funds to become an electrician. For him, securing full-time work after two decades was about more than just income: it represented pride and opportunities for family connections.

With Beam’s assistance, Tony achieved his goal. “Beam helped me break the cycle of dependency,” he said, “I’m living a full life today. With qualifications under my belt, I was able to get a job, sort out permanent housing and get off benefits.”


Throughout this journey, I’ve witnessed the profound impact that collective efforts can have on our housing and jobs services.

My North Star goal was to help 1,000 people, though the path to get there was uncertain.

I’m thrilled that, after seven years, we’ve helped over 3,780 people. For people we help find a home, 96% sustain their tenancies for six months, and 93% sustain their tenancies for 12 months. Our job seekers are supported into work in just over three months on average.

I’ve always believed in full and fair transparency; anyone can view our live impact data here.

At the same time, we’ve also seen the situation getting worse. In the UK, over 14 million people live in poverty, and hundreds of thousands are without a home. Rising living costs, global conflicts, housing and job market pressures have worsened the problem. Shockingly, the average age of death among people experiencing homelessness in the UK is 46 for men and 42 for women. The urgency of addressing this crisis has never been clearer.

People ask me for stories about who we’ve helped. There are too many to mention.

In response to global events, we expanded our support with the launch of Beam for Refugees to help people like Anna and her son, Ukrainian refugees, for whom the upfront costs of a new tenancy were a critical barrier to leaving homelessness.

With casework and financial support, Anna’s family found a home, which they still live in, over two years later. In an interview with Sky News about Beam, Anna said, “to have a permanent home is pure happiness.” She wrote on her campaign, “Beam is giving people hope for a better future.”

We remain steadfast in that commitment.

Register now for our Community Event

Community is at the heart of what we do, so we’re hosting an event at our London HQ to bring together supporters, partners, members, and the Beam Team. This is a great opportunity to connect with like-minded organisations, learn more about Beam's work, explore collaboration opportunities, and contribute to our shared mission of ending homelessness for good.

For more information about the event and to join the mailing list, please email ruha@beam.org.

Visit the Beam website