This time last year Joe was living in a hostel. He had become homeless following a relationship break-up and spent 14 months moving between temporary accommodation.
The Londoner was desperately trying to get his life back on track, having kicked a 20-year drink and drug addiction which had “completely ruined” his life. He had tried various avenues to find work, but was finding it almost impossible to secure employment.
Fast forward to today and the 37-year-old has turned his life around thanks to the kindness of strangers and an app called Beam, which crowdfunds to help homeless people train and get into work.
Joe now lives in a one bedroom flat and has a full-time job working as a slinger signaller, assisting with crane operations on a building site. “I’m in a very happy place,” he says. “It’s great that people out there would do that, just give money to someone like myself. They should be proud of themselves.”
His story is a lesson in sheer willpower and defiance. “All the guys in the hostel were still drinking and using drugs, so it was a horrible place to be in. But I was so determined to get a job,” he recalls. “Drink and drugs had completely ruined my life, so the more it was getting thrown in my face, the more I was determined to move forward.”
Joe tried relentlessly to find himself work. He pursued a loan, and then attempted to obtain funding from the Job Centre to get trained, but it wasn’t to be. “I was getting knocked down at every corner,” he says. “Everywhere I tried it just wasn’t happening. Then I got introduced to Beam through one of the women working at Thames Reach hostel and it all changed.”
Beam is the world’s first crowdfunding platform of its kind. Backed by the Mayor of London, the app launched in September and has since funded 22 campaigns, raising over £67,000 from public donations to fund a range of industry-recognised qualifications.
There are over 1,200 supporters and 23 homeless members on the platform who are pursuing a range of career paths - from electricians and accountants to teaching assistants and social workers.
Claudia Green, 28, is one of Beam’s first supporters. She donated £20 to Joe’s campaign, which reached £1,132 in five days, and has followed his progress throughout.
“Seeing Joe’s progress has been amazing and satisfying, everything seemed to happen pretty quickly,” she says. “When I first saw the campaign my reaction was: ok this is going to take a while to get him from homeless status to full-time employment. But it felt like, within weeks, I’d been updated that he had his work gear, had passed his certification and was ready to apply for a job.”
While a lot of people don’t see where their money goes when they give to charity, the beauty of Beam is that it sends updates to contributors throughout - so they can really see the difference they’ve made.“We need more charities like this,” says Claudia. “Beam gives them all the tools to change their circumstances.”
Statistics from charity Shelter suggest there are more than 307,000 homeless people in Britain. Alex Stephany, Beam’s founder and CEO, says his app is creating a “long-term solution to homelessness that everyone can be a part of”.
“I met Joe when we were launching Beam just over six months ago,” Alex recalls, adding that Joe’s success story shows that the app could change the fate of thousands more.
Recalling the moment he received donations on Beam, Joe says: “It made me feel so much happier and put more determination into what I wanted to do. It was uplifting, that’s for sure - because it’s just strangers giving to you for no reason really. It’s just out of pure kindness.”
He finished his training in October 2017 and it then took three months to find work. “It didn’t get me down or nothing,” he says. “I knew I was going to get a job somewhere. And then I did.”
He is now a slinger signaller working for VGC Group using tower and crawler cranes on the Northern Line extension at Battersea. “It’s a wicked job, with really nice people working alongside me, it’s really good,” he adds.
When asked if he has a message for the people who helped him, he gushes: “They really, really have helped me. It might’ve seemed nothing to them that they were giving money... but it’s changed my life, that’s for sure.”
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