Greater Change: Tackling Homelessness with Tech Founder Alex McCallion – Episode 33

I am joined by Alex Mcallian who is the founder of Greater Change, which is a great charity actually that supports people who really need it most. And I’m looking forward to speaking with you Alex.

Alex McCallion 0:41
So Greater Change is a nonprofit social enterprise, helping people experiencing homelessness move on.

Obviously, I’ll go into more detail. But essentially what we’re looking at is that there’s a whole community of people that want to offer people who are experiencing homelessness support, but often they don’t feel like there’s any way they can do that effectively.

So what we do is we provide a way of offering long term financial support to help people move on and make a make a real difference to their lives.

Nathaniel Schooler 1:14
Right, right. So does that include sort of, so obviously, that’s going to include all the basics, you know, like accommodation and food and this sort of stuff, but does that do you provide like a sort of helping hand education wise to help people to sort of get into work and this kind of stuff.

Alex McCallion 1:30
So we do, but we do it through partners. So when we were setting this up, what we found is that a lot of people who face a barrier financially, moving forward to working with the support worker and getting non financial support. But the, the issue is that very often, the two people can see how they could be supported out of homelessness.

But they can’t realise that because there’s not the personalised funding in place for somebody to take that positive next step. So it might be that somebody is engaged really well, wants to move forward. And as I identified that, they need identification documents and a private bank deposit to do that. And then once they’re in the accommodation, they can either get a job or be set up with their essay to sustain the tenancy long term.

So there are people working in the non financial support area, but a barrier financial barrier, in addition, preventing somebody moving forward. So we come in and offer the financial support.

But then there’s non financial support offered through the partner charity alongside that, and the reason we decided not to offer it ourselves was that was that when we were speaking with lots of people who are homeless about kind of what would be most useful to them, they said that it doesn’t make sense to duplicate service that’s already there.

And furthermore, often people have built up kind of a relationship with their support worker, where they trust each other and know each other, and it’s actually not beneficial to have to engage with someone else for for no reason.

That’s kind of summary. It’s that that you’ve got non financial support, but it’s provided through a different organisation,

Nathaniel Schooler 3:06
So what do you mean by non financial support?

Do you mean, do you mean sorts of emotional support and this sort of thing, or what?

Alex McCallion 3:14
Sometimes it’s that, but sometimes you can have issues such as if somebody’s not lived in a private tenancy before, they might not be familiar with paying things like council tax or utility bills. So there are often kind of things that it’s helpful to support people on to be able to maintain the tenancy long term, or people might not be familiar with how to search for a property, they might not have a laptop or something like this.

And then also other areas of support, filling in kind of passport documentation, you know, maybe people are struggling with substance misuse. So support around that. So. So there are a huge variety of things that people can sometimes want help with. But it obviously varies from person to person.

Then it’s a kind of personalised approach where people say what they need to move forward and then create an action plan, we help realise the financial elements and the support work or help realise the non financial elements that people are struggling with.

Nathaniel Schooler 4:14
Right, that sounds fantastic. So I mean, I think over the next few years, I can see your organisation growing quite sizeable. I know you were on the BBC A while back. And you did a pilot scheme in Oxford, and that worked really well, didn’t it?

So now, you’ve recently done one in London, I’ve got someone else I want to introduce you to on that front. But you probably need to connect with me on Facebook for me to do that, because she’s involved with a lot of Churches in London, and I think you should definitely speak with her.

But so with with your organisation, do you see actually growing massively globally?

Alex McCallion 4:54
Yeah, definitely. We want to expand this certainly nationally, and we you say we, we ran a successful trial and people, a lot of people within Oxford, we were able to help move forward.

So we wanted to grow it from there. So yeah, as you say, we’ve recently done a very small pilot in London and we’re in the process of expanding that now. And then also looking at other areas within the country.

Internationally, it’s obviously very hard to say at this time, because different countries have very different climates, in terms of terms of kind of government support services, attitudes towards giving. So it’s very hard to say, but I think certainly homelessness is a pretty much global problem that people face. So I mean, if one day we we could support people internationally to move on out of homelessness through this I think, I think that would obviously be absolutely fantastic. And I think I think there’s likely scope for it. But it’s it’s very hard to say, at this stage, given given how countries differ.

Nathaniel Schooler 5:59
Yeah, it’s not an easy one. I mean, from, from what I gather, I think it’s something like how many billions? I think they’re 8 billion people on the planet. Is that right?

Alex McCallion 6:08
I think it’s around that.

Nathaniel Schooler 6:09
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So and apparently 1 billion of those are, you know, not living as they should be. Right. So, you know, apparently, I mean, Blockchain technology with Cryptocurrency can actually help those guys to sort of have a have a bank account. And this kind of stuff is that an angle that you guys think that you will move towards,

Alex McCallion 6:33
it’s not something that we’ve, we’ve looked at, to be honest, it’s perhaps a bit bit far down the line, but I can certainly see the benefits that that would have to people is not something where we’re kind of looking into at the moment, we’re still we’re still pretty small, and, and have, I guess, have a lot on our plates, trying to sort of scale this up within the UK.

So we’re pretty focused on that. And that next step at the moment, and supporting, right, but certainly there are, there are, as you say, kind of numerous ideas as to where this could go, if we if we were to be successful in expanding and I think, and I think like you say, there, there’s so many people living in situations of poverty.

Then also a lot of people are, unfortunately, though, the one to offer support. But at the moment, there’s a real problem of kind of linking those those two groups. So I think, I think technology offers us a real opportunity now to to really link people better create more of a sense of community amongst people who otherwise couldn’t form a community because of sort of geographical barriers, maybe that is thousands of miles away, and I think when you do that, then people will receive much more support and will have a much more kind of much more of a chance to help people move forward.

Nathaniel Schooler 7:51
Right? Yeah, I agree completely. I mean, I think so what I like about your QR code idea is that you actually information on the person that you’re helping. And I think that’s really, really important, because it’s like, they’re not just a name, or a number, like that is a person and they have skills they have previously worked, or they, you know, they’ve, they’ve obviously got some some talents there that can be, you know, what, extracted, enthused out one would say, or retrained.

I mean, I think with certainly with jobs, and the way jobs are going in the next few years, retraining is key. And if people don’t retrain quick enough to keep up with what’s happening with the with AI and working alongside it, they are going to be disrupted.

So I think it’s great what you’re doing. But I think the whole thing definitely needs more awareness. And, you know, where I live I go to a Church and, and they are part of a group within Churches to help a lot of people actually to get off the streets, they help them with a accommodation and food and spiritual help, and friends, exercise, you know, everything. And I think I like the idea of what you’re saying, having like a holistic view, it’s the way to go for sure.

Alex McCallion 9:12
Yeah, definitely. And I couldn’t agree more on the kind of on the point about sort of sharing, sharing information that people want to put across, because originally, we weren’t actually going to do that. And then through talking to many people who are homeless, they said that actually, that’s one of the things that would really appeal to them, if they were able to share certain things that they wanted to share.

Because so often, there’s this, there’s this kind of deep negative stigma, whereas what people wanted to do is later say, say, are actually I really enjoyed this, and I want to talk about this and sort of share this with people or, you know, previously, I worked this and that’s my goal to get back into that. And I think, I think like you say, it’s, it’s a really powerful way of overcoming people’s misunderstandings, if people are able to, to have a platform to show the world story.

Nathaniel Schooler 10:01
I agree, 100%, I think it’s going to be very, very good. I think that, you know, I was speaking to a lady yesterday, who helps a few, quite a few people in in the States. So, I’ll make an introduction for you there.

But I’m quite excited to see this grow within the UK and, you know, in the future in the world, really, I mean, it’s a it’s a great idea, I think it’s, it’s certainly what people need, but having the support element of someone guiding, guiding, you know, people who are in that position temporarily is going to help them to get over it because it’s it’s very stressful being being being under pressure like that. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be to be on the streets. I mean, I know I know someone who who does is the founder of the CEO sleep out Mike Tobin OBE.

So all these CEOs, they go, and they sleep out once a year, and they raised like, I don’t know, a couple hundred thousand for a homeless charity that he’s involved with. In London. It’s for homeless young young ladies, I think kids and what happened when he was doing that is one of the CEOs came up to him. And they said:-

“Well, I understand what it feels like to to be on the streets.”

Mike said:- “

“Well, actually, you don’t really because you know, when it’s going to be over”

And I think it’s a difficult one, isn’t it?

Because we’re sort of, in a way we’re a bit desensitized to media, but actually, there are a lot of people who do think like us, and I’m quite excited to share this story with people. So how do people get involved and help you if they want to sort of speak to you, Alex?

Alex McCallion 11:43
So, so people can can reach out directly and kind of send an email. So it’s Alex@greaterchange.co.uk or if you’d like to kind of support somebody in in saving for one of the long term goals, our website:-

Greater Change 

Okay, if people want to want to get involved kind of either through supporting it, always extremely useful to to have volunteers. So please do get in touch. And then if if people can contribute financially to people’s savings goals.

It just makes an absolutely phenomenal difference in people moving forward with supported lots of people who have have moved off the streets through a deposit and identification.

They have moved as soon as they’ve saved that money into into long term stable housing and employment almost straight away. So so you can make a real real difference by by giving through this

Nathaniel Schooler 12:41
Well, thanks for your time. Really appreciate it.

Alex McCallion 12:45
Thanks. Thanks.

Unknown 12:50
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