Streets2Homes runs a drop-in centre in Harlow, Essex. The drop-in centre provides washing facilities, food and clothing, but also acts as a portal to the charity’s other services, which includes housing advice, social contact, employment advice, training sessions and wider guidance and support.
The charity’s first grant from Lloyds Bank Foundation was for £30,000, delivered between 2011 and 2014; it funded the salary of the Centre Manager. They are now approaching the end of their second grant, which is for £57,302 delivered over three years for the same purpose.
When Bill lost his job, his mother passed away and his relationship broke down all in the same year, he turned to drugs, but when he fell behind on paying rent, he was evicted from his flat. He sofa surfed, then ended up in a tent outside the local church. He says:
“The council just palmed me off, so I came to Streets2Homes. Here they will help you as much as they can, but you’ve got to help yourself as well.”
Streets2Homes offered Bill stability and helped him rebuild his life:
“I’d lost all my ID, which made it difficult to get work. I used this address as ‘care of’ to get replacements because I didn’t have an address of my own; I don’t know what I would’ve done if I hadn’t been able to do that. But it’s the simple things too – being able to have a wash and get clean underwear and clothing, and a hot meal inside of you.”
The first place Streets2Homes helped Bill into didn’t work out. Undeterred, the charity persisted in helping him, and Bill is now in a flat of his own. Now he volunteers at Streets2Homes, where he draws on his experiences to help others. He says:
“My life now is so different, and a lot of it is to do with Streets2Homes – being around positive people, keeping myself focused on getting a job and training up to get new skills. I’m back in contact with my kids too; I’d let them down a bit, but we’re building bridges now.
“I had a rough time these last few years, but this place has done me a massive turn, and everything is coming together now.”
Kerrie Eastman, CEO of Streets2Homes, believes the charity’s success helping people like Bill is rooted in its approach:
“We couldn’t do the work we do if we didn’t know the people well. Nobody else knows them – nobody else is interested, whereas we see them as friends, not a problem to solve. That influences our whole approach, which is also psychologically informed: we don’t do assessments, it’s a get to know you meeting, and we sit side by side, not across a big desk. When we visit people once they’ve been housed, we aren’t checking up on them – we genuinely want to see how they’re doing.
“People do stay in touch with us as well. One guy we housed four years ago still pops his head in to say hello – it’s lovely.”
In addition to the grant Streets2Homes receives from Lloyds Bank Foundation, Kerrie attended a School of Social Entrepreneurs course and has had a mentor from Lloyds Banking Group, Graham Bullock, who was a Commercial Relationship Manager when the pair were matched back in 2015. He has since retired, but recently became a trustee of Streets2Homes, continuing his support of the charity. He says:
“Kerrie was so busy, and I wanted to understand whether she needed to be doing everything. It wasn’t a case of telling her what to do, but establishing whether it was important for her to do everything or she could delegate to her team.
“We also looked at time management, which I found easy as I’d developed it through looking after my large portfolio in the bank, but Kerrie hadn’t had any opportunity to work on it before.
“I’m really pleased I became a Charity Mentor and then a Trustee. You help the charity, but you also grow in yourself; you grow in confidence.”
Implementing the changes she discussed with Graham has made a big difference for Kerrie. She reflects:
“Graham helped me realise I can’t do everything. Now we’ve promoted Keiren to Operations Manager, he can oversee day-to-day things, which has freed me up to move into strategic planning and networking, making us more robust.
“I was always treading water. I was working in the business, but now I can step back and work on it. I can look at what we’re doing, where we want to go and how we want to grow and improve ourselves.
“Without Graham I’d be burnt out by now.”