Big Change campaign making a difference.

Donations to a campaign helping the street homeless in Luton have made a significant impact in improving lives over the past 18 months.

Big Change Luton, launched as an alternative way to give to those in need, has helped a number of individuals to build a life away from the streets as well as support organisations working with people experiencing homelessness.

The initiative was launched at the end of 2019 with the aim of providing alternative methods of giving, asking Lutonians to donate spare time, items or money to help people experiencing homelessness build a life away from the street. 

This included a dedicated just giving page and the introduction of two contactless donation points at the service desk in the Mall and at the Travel Centre opposite the station.

Financial support has been distributed to local organisations such as Noah, Penrose, Signposts and Keystage Housing, some of the many partners that are working together to end homelessness.

 This has been especially important throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. The lack of stable accommodation can significantly increase the impact of the virus. Concerned members of the community who have donated have commented that the initiative is “a breath of fresh air”.

The campaign is on-going and donations are very welcome at the two contactless points or go to Big Change Luton – JustGiving. 

One individual with a long history of domestic violence, exploitation, and significant health issues, successfully bid for permanent council accommodation in November. In order to turn the shell of a flat into a home, she needed a bed, fridge-freezer and cooker. Money from the Big Change channelled via her support worker at Keystage Housing has enabled her to purchase these key items to help her settle and progress towards the next stage of her full recovery. 

An applicant who has used the services provided by Noah Enterprise was given money to purchase a mobile phone which not only enabled him to open an online bank account but was vital in enabling him to conveniently access and apply for job opportunities.

Signposts and Penrose have also been able to assist their clients with mobile phones, furniture or deposit money to secure accommodation.

Declan, who was street homeless and had been living in a tent for eight years, had been offered a flat by Signposts and they were also able to support him furnish it. 

Big Change funding helped him to make his flat feel like home.  

Declan said: “I found completing this application quick and easy I did it within 10 minutes with my key worker and was happy about how easy it was to understand and follow. I want to thank Big Change Luton and Signposts for apply for this fund with me. When I found out it got accepted, I did a little dance with my key worker Elizabeth. This will change my life as I previously lived in a tent for eight years. I can now focus on getting back to work and settling down. Thank you.”

Councillor Tom Shaw, Luton Council portfolio holder for housing, said: “Big Change has made a difference to a number of people already, and as we emerge from the shadow of coronavirus, it is right that we re-energise the campaign to encourage people to spare a small amount of money. We often say a little goes a long way, and this has been shown to be true for those whose lives have been turned around by the kindness of others.

Inspector Fiona Dawson, from Luton community policing team, said: “Criminal exploitation of homeless and other vulnerable people is something we are committed to working alongside our partners to tackle.

“We work with lots of different agencies to do this, as no one single organisation has all the answers working on their own.

“By working together with the Luton Homeless Partnership on projects like Big Change and BAVEX, can achieve so much more and make a massive difference to people who are experiencing homelessness.”

Kimberley Lamb, head of the Bedfordshire Violence and Exploitation Reduction Unit (VERU), said: “We work really closely with members of the Luton Homeless Partnership, which does fantastic work to combat exploitation of vulnerable people.

“This is a brilliant initiative which supports our overarching aims of preventing violence and exploitation by working collectively to help people from becoming involved in the first place.”

The alternative giving campaign is managed by the Luton Homeless Partnership, which consists of more than 20 partners from across the voluntary, public, and private sector, all working together to tackle homelessness. 

The campaign also serves as a reminder that if you are worried about someone you’ve seen sleeping rough in Luton, you can alert Streetlink by downloading the Streetlink app or by calling 0300 500 0914. The information will be sent to an outreach team who will respond the same or the next day.

So why not go online, search Big Change Luton and find out how you can donate – A small amount of money can make a huge difference to someone building a life away from the streets.

Notes:

BAVEX stands for Bedfordshire Against Violence and Exploitation and is the countywide campaign to raise awareness and reporting on all forms of exploitation, especially those linked to organised crime.

Read some of the good news stories!

JM - Penrose

JM who was street homeless approached Penrose for support with finding accommodation and a rent deposit. JM had been homeless for a few years. Although he was proactively looking for help he encountered many barriers. So with our support JM applied to the Big Change for help with his deposit and rent in advance, this was successful. JM was then able to secure a room in a shared property. The application was easy to complete and the response very swift. It’s a great resource to our clients.    JM said:  “The rent deposit with Big Change has helped me when other services have let me down. It was quicker than I expected and uncomplicated. Other services make the process difficult, and I had lost out on properties because of the delay in their processes. This stops people from wanting to get help and feels like they are begging.  I was feeling so lost and depressed. Now I am relieved to have a place of my own and its one less thing to worry about. My children have a place where they can come to visit me”.  

Chloe - Signposts

Chloe was living with Signposts having lost her part time job in performing arts as a result of COVID-19. Chloe didn’t have any current photo ID which she needed to secure a new jobm, accommodation and to start learning to drive. Chloe had been in and out of the homeless system for a few years and wanted secure permanent accommodation, somewhere she could call home. With our support Chloe was supported to apply to the Big Change Fund for a passport, this was not only going to help Chloe achieve her aspiration of securing accommodation, employment and a provisional license it would also allow her to travel in the future and is also valid for 10 years. She said she would like a Passport as it lasts 10 years, she could use this as ID to get her own place, use it to get a provisional license, get a new job and she could use a passport to go traveling in the future. The application was successful. The passport has now been used to move Chloe out of Signposts and into a new home. The application was easy to complete and the response was very fast.   Chloe said: "At the moment because of COVID-19 I can't do a lot with my passport but, I have moved into new accommodation which is really nice. once lockdown is over, I will renew my EHIK card so I can go traveling around Europe, buy a provisional license and start driving so I can expand my job opportunities and I also want to renew my DBS so I can start working with Kids again. I am very grateful that big change Luton helped me get valid ID as now I feel nothing is in the way to stop me "  

Declan

Having been street homeless and living in a tent for the last 8 years Declan approached Signposts for support with furnishing a studio flat. Signposts had supported Declan to secure his new home and also supported Declan to apply to the Big Change Fund to help him furnish his new flat. The application was successful, and Declan was able to have his new home ready for Christmas. The application was easy to complete and response very fast. Declan said: "I found completing this application quick and easy I did it within 10 minutes with my keyworker and was happy about how easy it was to understand and follow. I want to thank Big Change Luton and Signposts for applying for this fund with me.  When I found out it got accepted I did a little dance with my keyworker Elizabeth. This will change my life as I previously lived in a tent for 8 years. I'm now looking forward to Christmas and the new fresh start in the new year. I got everything I asked for in the application e.g a bed, chairs and table and much more. This is going to make this Christmas very special as I will being celebrating this Christmas in my very first home which will be fully finished. With the help of Big Change Luton.  This help is going to make my future brighter because I don’t have to worry about saving up for a bed and other appliances like a kettle. I can now focus on getting back to work and settling down. Thank you."
 

CD

CD, a 41-year-old female originating from the US came to the UK in her early 20’s. Having escaped an abusive relationship CD came to Luton for addiction treatment, having recovered from Cancer and being HIV positive CD has numerous mobility issues. CD was referred to Keystage after a period of homelessness and ill health culminating in a hospital admission for Pneumonia. Upon discharge CD encountered a number of poor accommodation issues but was eventually successful in bidding for social housing through Luton Borough Council. However, when moving in CD’s new flat was just an empty shell. CD was in desperate need for the basics to get a flat up and running. A bed, and white goods, so a successful referral to Big Change was made. CD was able to buy a bed, fridge/freezer and a cooker. Being able to get these has helped CD to feel like the flat she moved into was her new home and not a cold empty shell. We were able to get this all delivered for her before Christmas, so she was at least comfortable over the festive period. Being able to do the basics in her flat like sleep and eat allows her to continue her road to a full recovery.