GraffitiStreet initially teamed up with ‘Streets of London’ at our first ever GraffitiStreet launch event in London, and continue to raise money for their charitable work, through our charity urban art auctions.
Streets of London Homelessness Charity funds specialist support for people who are homeless in London, and raises awareness about homelessness. Streets of London aims to shift perceptions and challenge some of the stereotypes about who homeless people are, and to increase general understanding about the issue and what can be done to tackle it.
We sat down and chatted to ‘Streets of London’ Charity Founder Ian Fothringham about the hard work ‘Streets of London’ does to tackle homelessness in London…
When did you set up Streets of London charity?
We became a registered charity at the start of 2014, but we’ve been going a bit longer than that. The first Streets of London event we put on was a fundraising gig at the ICA in March 2010 featuring Gabriella Cilmi (who had a huge hit with the song Sweet About Me). The following year, Seasick Steve kindly agreed to appear at a Streets of London fundraiser at the Camden Electric Ballroom. It was a great show, and made all the better when John Paul Jones from Led Zep made a surprise guest appearance.
What was the drive that led you to help the homeless and start up a charity?
I’ve been working in the homeless sector for about ten years, mostly working on the front line as an employment support worker/careers coach in a large day centre for homeless people in central London. Streets of London work keeps me pretty busy nowadays, but I still work in the day centre a day each week.
Homelessness compromises people’s basic dignity, and at the centre we see on a daily basis how damaging social exclusion can be to people’s self-esteem and their health, but also what a huge difference support can make.
With the right support, people who have experienced homelessness can turn their lives around. The issues they face are often complex, but attention to their individual situations and needs can make all the difference in helping them move off the streets and move on with their lives. It’s vital that people are able to access specialist services.
During the last ten years, I’ve seen the extent to which small homelessness charities have to rely on insecure sources of funding. They generally lack the profile and fund-raising capacity of the larger, better-known charities, and more often than not they’re in the vulnerable position of not knowing where next year’s funding will come from.
It’s amazing and vital work that they’re doing, so it’s dispiriting to see lots of them closing due to lack of funding, as happened when the economic downturn hit a few years ago. The centre where I work lost 15% of its front-line staff, and across the sector in London, charity after charity was forced to close due to lack of funding. All that at a time when more people began to hit the streets. I was determined to do something about it.
Have you seen an increase in London’s homelessness over the years?
Absolutely. Official statistics show that the number of people sleeping rough in London has more than doubled over the last five years. That’s definitely borne out by the number of people who come looking for help at the day centre. The number just keeps on increasing, bit by bit, month after month.
Homeless people come from all walks of life. For the vast majority of people, it’s not something they’ve chosen for themselves. Generally speaking, something bad has happened to them and they haven’t had family or friends around to help. Relationship breakdown, redundancy, poor mental health, addiction, domestic abuse are just some of the reasons why people end up on the street.
Tell us a little bit about what Streets of London does?
Simply put, Streets of London helps to fund the essential work being done around London to help homeless people make lasting changes in their lives. Using our collective knowledge and experience of the sector, we identify particular projects – generally at smaller, less well known charities – where we believe the funding will make a real difference and will have a significant positive impact on the lives of homeless people.
We also exist to challenge the perception that those who end up homeless are any different from the rest of us. There’s so much stereotyping that goes on around who homeless people are, much of which bears little resemblance to the reality of the people we see. As well as funding projects, we run projects to raise awareness about the cause as a whole, and to engage people in the facts and shift perceptions a bit. There’s a lot of discrimination out there, and we see it as one of our jobs to play our small part in doing something about that.
You have put on some impressive music gigs to raise money for the homeless. Ellie Goulding has been a major player in helping you with this. How did she become involved?
Ellie Goulding’s been amazing – her involvement has made a huge difference to what we’ve been able to do as a charity in the last couple of years. We’re extremely grateful for her generosity in supporting us and for bringing greater awareness to the cause as a whole.
She first became involved with Streets of London a couple of years ago, when property developers began installing anti-homeless spikes to prevent people sleeping rough near their buildings. Along with many people working in the homeless sector and among the wider public, Ellie was outraged by such a cynical attempt to sweep away poverty and inequality, and she wanted to get involved.
It happily coincided with our plans for a larger fundraising gig. We began talking and it led to Ellie curating an amazing show at Shepherd’s Bush Empire in aid of Streets of London in December 2014, which featured an incredible line-up of artists who she’d pulled together for it (artists included Bastille, Birdy, Jess Glynne, Tom Odell, Years & Years and Kodaline, among others). Fearne Cotton compered the evening, and Ed Miliband, a few months before the general election, came along too. It was an amazing event, and allowed us to raise a substantial amount for the projects we support.
Last December, Ellie went one better by generously curating another Streets of London fundraiser, this time at the Roundhouse in Camden. Not only is it an amazing venue, but Ellie persuaded friends including Marcus and Ben from Mumford and Sons to perform, as well as Rudimental, John Newman, Olly from Years & Years, Kwabs and MNEK. It was quite a show, and it helped us to raise more than £60,000.
It’s fantastic to have Ellie’s ongoing support for Streets of London and it’s brilliant that she’s so passionate about bringing attention to the cause.
How much money have you raised through events so far and where does the money go to?
A few months ago we made grants for the year totalling more than £82,000 to eight amazing projects across London that support the city’s homeless.
Thanks to the generosity of our supporters – including GraffitiStreet and the urban artists who have generously donated artwork – in the last couple of years we’ve been able to provide more than £125,000 of vital funding to the homeless sector in London, funding projects such as a night shelter, a rehabilitation hostel, specialist mental health support, a project helping homeless hospital patients into housing, catering and gardening training programmes and a mentoring project.
It’s a great start, but with the homelessness problem as bad as it is at the moment, there’s so much work that needs funding, so we’re looking at ways to extend our efforts further, so that funding can reach more of the people who desperately need it.
People can feel reassured, when donating to Streets of London, that their money will always be really well spent. Because we provide funding to a range of lesser-known charities across London where we know the extra funding will make a real difference, and because we fund carefully-chosen projects at each of those charities, donors can feel confident that their donation will have a real impact of the lives of homeless people.
What are the positive experiences you have witnessed through projects you've helped?
Support has a real impact on people’s lives. At each of the projects we’ve helped to fund, we hear stories that make it clear what a difference they make.
Manuel is one of the many people who have benefitted this year as a result of Streets of London funding. He was living in Victoria and working as a hairdresser when he had complications with his health, and was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called Kaposi Sarcoma. He was sleeping out in Westminster and describes how difficult it was to get a proper night’s sleep because of the noise, weather and threats made to his safety. The Connection’s street outreach team referred Manuel into the Night Centre, and he’s been staying there while longer term housing is found for him.
“Coming into the Night Centre is a blessing because I know the only time I will be outside is the daytime”, says Manuel. “Now we have hot meals and the food is beautiful. [And] after this therapy I’m going through at the moment I’ll be able to face anything that comes along. I feel motivated.”
While Manuel is concentrating on restoring his heath he is accessing all of the centre’s practical services and is finding the activity groups particularly therapeutic.
Connected with this, it surprises me time and again how cheerful and friendly many people manage to remain in spite of their circumstances and the pressure they’re under, and often after having had little sleep the previous night. It’s amazing how resilient they can be, in spite of everything.
Is there enough help out there? And how can we do more?
With the huge number of homeless people on the streets at the moment, there certainly isn’t enough help out there, and more needs to be done. There are enough charities that do great work, but not enough funding to allow them to properly support all the homeless people in London who need their help. With more funding, Streets of London can reach more people, so a key way in which people can help is by making a donation. We’d be very grateful for the support.
For anyone who has some spare time that they’d like to give on a regular basis, people can help out by volunteering at a day centre. There are lots of homelessness agencies across London that rely on the support of volunteers.
Additionally, people can lend their voice to campaigns run by charities campaigning for change in homelessness policy, so that the government realises this is an issue that matters to people, and takes more concerted action to tackle homelessness on our streets.
The bottom line is that homeless people are no different to anyone else. It’s important that as a society we recognise that, and value them accordingly. They’re people with personality, talents and abilities, like anyone else. When someone’s sleeping rough on the street, they’re clearly in need of support. It’s important that someone’s there to offer them a hand up, so they can get on with their life. Our aim is to make sure they get that support.
What future projects does Streets of London have in store?
This summer we have a Speed-Hike for Homelessness coming up, where two teams of participants will follow the 168K route of the world-famous Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB), speed-hiking the trail that runs around the Mont Blanc massif through France, Italy and Switzerland, to raise money for Streets of London.
We have a number of other exciting things coming up, including another eBay auction of T-shirts and memorabilia signed by around 50 high-profile musicians.
Beginning 14th August 2016 we have the GraffitiStreet Urban Art Charity Online Auction.
We have a few other big things in the pipe-line too, but I can’t say too much about them at the moment.
Watch this space!
GraffitiStreet's Urban Art Auction for the Streets of London!
Street artists My Dog Sighs (UK), Pichi&Avo (ES), JPS (UK), Bisser (BE), Hunto (IT), Joachim (BE), Pahnl (UK), NilsWestergard (US), 3F (UK) and NME (UK) have all contributed artworks to be auctioned off, via GraffitStreet‘s new online auction platform, with all proceeds going to Streets of London.
This new and exciting platform will start ‘Streets of London’ online auction on Sunday 14th August 2016 at 20:00 (GMT) and finishes one week later on the 21st August 2016 at 20:00 (GMT).
Please consider lending your support to Streets of London by making a bid today, so they can continue to fund some amazing projects that will help London’s homeless, also bagging yourself some unique urban art in the process. Read more about the auction and available artwork here.
GraffitiStreet would like to thank Ian, Streets of London and all the Projects for all their hard work and tireless efforts helping the homeless on London’s streets, and a massive thank you to all the street artists who contributed their time and art to help us raise money for such a worthy cause.