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Alex McCallion

Degree:

BA Economics & Management

Location:

UK

Industry:

Charity

Year:

2017

By Alex McCallion

Spare some change? How about helping someone make one?

Homelessness in the UK is a huge growing issue.  In Oxford alone, the number of people rough sleeping in the city has almost doubled over the last year. At the same time, there is so much goodwill out there, and a huge willingness to help people who are rough sleeping. I decided that if everybody who wanted to help was able to help more effectively this would be very powerful.

I studied Economics and Management at Jesus College, and during my time at Oxford I did homelessness outreach with one of the student outreach groups. I quickly became interested in the economic and effectiveness of giving change on the streets. At a similar time I was really interested in the boom in tech startups and why this same thing had not particularly occurred in the third sector. I wrote my thesis on this topic and this was a great way of being able to explore through my degree the potential challenges of implementing a charitable tech startup.

The general public are very concerned about homelessness and really do want to help. However, at the moment, they often do not feel able to help someone they see rough sleeping. Many people say they give a little money but wonder if it is really helping, many also say they often do not give for fear it will be spent on addictions and not help someone move off the streets. Many do not carry cash at all.

I talked to people working to address homelessness around Oxford. I started to work with Aspire Oxford. They are a charity and social enterprise helping people from disadvantaged backgrounds into employment. They also employ many support workers who help people overcome challenges they are facing such as substance misuse or homelessness.

I decided that the solution had to be a way to give without carrying cash, combined with a method for empowering the homeless to show that they would be spending money on constructive solutions. This was the start of Greater Change.

Greater Change is a mobile donation system that enables members of the public to give directly to a homeless person. Once this individual wishes to access their fund, they meet with their support worker who ensures the money is spent effectively on items like training, identification documents, job experience, or private rental deposits. Greater Change also allows you to give to organisations that help rough sleepers.

The main unique feature about Greater Change is about being absolutely transparent: Greater Change will feedback to you exactly what your money was spent on, and if the homeless individual is willing, will share their story and progress.

We want to expand Greater Change beyond Oxford, first to small cities, then across the UK.

We see the benefits of Greater Change as:

  • You know when you give to someone that it will genuinely help them progress out of homelessness. You can then see how your donation has helped someone move on from homelessness through our updates.
  • Being able to give without carrying cash
  • Knowing that the people on Greater Change are registered homeless and are not professional beggars.
  • We hope to be able to claim Gift Aid and have organisations match donations.

It is easy to become numb to the fact that people sleep on our streets. However, when you pause and take even just a quick moment to reflect on this fact: that in our modern, affluent society people are sleeping rough. People are sleeping rough in freezing temperatures. It is a deeply shocking and unacceptable situation.

Over 150 people have already supported our crowdfunding campaign to build the app. I am very grateful to everybody who has supported this and together we can definitely make a difference to helping people get off the streets.

We’ve only got a week left until our campaign closes, we appreciate every pound given, and every shared post within your network. Please give to our crowdfund campaign so we can help you to give smarter!

If successful, we will launch our app early next spring! You can help us by looking out for it and giving through it. We will of course keep all our crowdfund supporters updated in the meantime! Here is the link to our crowdfund campaign:

https://oxreach.hubbub.net/p/GreaterChange/

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