LCR Homelessness Business Charter
Acknowledging that every individual deserves a home, we commit to support the ongoing work of public and charitable agencies in ending homelessness.
On 4th April 2019, the Community Foundation for Merseyside, in collaboration with the Liverpool Parish Church, hosted a conference, chaired by Professor Michael Parkinson, entitled ‘Homelessness & Rough Sleeping – Who Cares?’.
The day brought together the offices of both the City Mayor and the Metro Mayor, experts in homelessness and business leaders. The audience of 170 people were given greater insight into the issue of homelessness and the ongoing work to reduce it and the event culminated in a consideration of possible combined action.
From the event, a group of dedicated business leaders was convened to map out a Charter which could galvanise concerted action on the part of businesses large and small.
Official figures show that rough sleeping in England has increased for the seventh consecutive year, as England recorded a 14% rise. The biggest regional increase was in the north-west (39%) where rough sleeping has almost doubled over the past two years (Guardian, 2018).
The average age of a rough sleeper at death was 44 years for men and 42 years for women (Guardian, 2018). On 8th January 2019, Aimee Teese, a much-loved mum with a ‘massive, infectious laugh’ who was just 30 years old was found dead in a tent in Vauxhall, Liverpool. Within three months, on 2 April, Richard Kehoe was discovered comatose in a tent opposite the Royal Liverpool hospital (Guardian 2019)
What is the Charter initiative?
The Community Foundation carried out consultation with businesses following the Conference. This found that despite an overwhelming desire from organisations to support public and voluntary agencies in ending homelessness, lack of understanding about homelessness (and its many causes) and conflicting information on how to help acted as a barrier to effective action. At the same time, Community Foundation carried out research with front line agencies on the most effective ways of providing support.
The Community Foundation research found that the least effective ways for businesses to seek to deal with homelessness are:
- Installing anti homeless structures (e.g. sloped steps and spikes)
- Providing dog food, blankets, kennels etc.
- Employees providing pocket change and small meals/hot drinks for rough sleepers
- Purchasing a tent for an individual.
In the light of the consultation and research, the LCR Homelessness Business Charter, officially launched in November 2019, encourages organisations to commit to make a difference to the lives of homeless people and rough sleepers across the City Region by utilising their individual resources in a targeted fashion. The aim is to recruit 200 City Region businesses as Charter signatories by 2021.
How to be involved
Any organisation that wants to join others in a collaborative stance against homelessness can join the Charter initiative. To become a signatory to the Charter an organisation has to make just two commitments:
To designate one of its employees to become a homeless ambassador. This employee will receive expert homelessness and rough sleeping awareness training from Crisis. They will be expected to circulate what they learn throughout their organisation and to increase their co-workers’ awareness of homelessness issues.
To provide support in one of the following ways:
- Using our business networks to educate the public and remove the potential stigma of homelessness
- Using our business networks to influence and lobby the public sector for homelessness funding
- Educating our employees about the reality of homelessness and signposting
- Funding services that work with people at risk of homelessness
- Funding homelessness services that offer housing advice, long term housing and employment skills
- Funding early intervention services that work with high risk groups – e.g. young offenders and NEETs
- Funding homelessness services that focus on wrap-around support e.g. mental health counselling, dealing with grief
- Funding/building overnight shelters
- Funding day trips or outings to improve mental wellbeing, social skills etc.
Providing sponsorship, equipment and materials
- Providing starter packs of furniture, decorating materials and household items
- Sponsoring a hostel bed [for someone who does not have recourse to public funds]
- Providing ‘travel cards’ for service users to access activities, trains, leisure facilities etc.
- Providing toys, equipment for children e.g. sponsor ‘homework club’ for family services, clothing or play equipment
- Sponsoring or providing Wi-Fi and/or a mobile telephone for a homeless individual
- Providing IT equipment for use by homeless service users to improve digital inclusion
•Installing technology to protect homeless people (e.g. weight sensors in waste trucks)
- Providing personal care packs (e.g. toiletries socks etc.) including specific pack for females
- Providing (purchasing vouchers for) individual well-being offer, free haircuts, manicures, chiropody etc.
- Providing clothing, particularly ‘outdoor wear’ for the winter
- Providing equipment, materials that promote health and well-being in support services e.g. camping equipment, gardening
Changing employment practices and providing training and job opportunities
- Rethinking policies to support vulnerable employees e.g. mental health first aid, sickness support
- Providing accredited training courses for homeless people or sponsoring an individual to undertake a relevant course
- Providing direct employment opportunities and apprenticeships for homeless people
- Implementing ‘slow employment’ recruitment processes to gently reintroduce homeless individuals back to the workforce
- Providing work or interview experience for homeless people
- Practicing responsible employment practices e.g. ensuring living wage, flexible working etc.
- Hosting open days’/career days for homeless individuals
Volunteering and providing pro bono services
- Volunteering services to organisations dealing with homelessness e.g. marketing or legal advice
- Volunteering workforce to run activities in homelessness organisations where they have skills/interests e.g. photography, art
- Volunteering workforce to coach and mentor homeless individuals
- Engaging business and workforce with local services e.g. visiting a local homelessness service or spending away day at local homelessness service to increase knowledge and awareness
Lobbying for better housing
- More responsible and thoughtful renting by landlords
- Building more social and affordable housing
- Creating easier access to rental properties e.g. underwriting rent