A “life-changing” fund has been launched in Liverpool – aimed at helping people who find themselves homeless on the city’s streets.

Hosted at http://www.changeliverpool.co.uk/, the new fund will rely on public donations which will be used to provide grants to those in need of support to get off the street and into new opportunities.

It is estimated the “Change Liverpool” fund could raise tens of thousands of pounds by changing the cycle of street begging – with people supporting a more pro-active, long term alternative than the short term hit of handing over small change to an individual.

The fund, which will be managed by the Community Foundation for Merseyside, is part of a wider campaign designed to change public perceptions about supporting the homeless and is being led by a new multi-agency support network.

The Change Liverpool network includes key organisations such as: Liverpool BID Company, the Community Foundation for Merseyside, Crisis, Liverpool Parish Church, Liverpool City Council,  The Whitechapel Centre and other professionals who work with homelessness.

The launch follows the ending of the Government’s Everyone In policy, which Liverpool chose to extend until mid-August this year. During the pandemic Liverpool City Council, through a partnership with Registered Housing Providers, found homes for more than 1,500 people, providing furniture and support. It has extended this joint approach with local housing providers until the end of September to prioritise those at risk of homelessness into accommodation.

However, with winter fast approaching fears are rising that some people may withdraw from support and go back onto the streets – and to beg.

A former gas engineer, whose life fell apart due to alcoholism and found himself begging on the city’s street for six years to fuel his addiction, which once brought him to the point of death, has helped launch the appeal.

Jay Keenan, 46, said the fund will be a far better way to help those on the streets, rather than giving any small change given by those who feel sorry for those less fortunate than themselves.

Jay, who has been sober since 2015 and is now employed a senior case worker at Transforming Choice, an addiction support charity in South Liverpool, said:

“Change Liverpool is the right approach. We think giving money, food or a blanket to someone suffering on the street is helping them. It’s not. You’re just keeping them there. It’s a basic human instinct to help but although you may feel better about that support, in the long term all you are really doing is helping to slowly kill them by keeping that person on the streets.”

Crispin Pailing, from Liverpool Parish Church, said:

“Homelessness is something we cannot ignore and we all struggle with the right thing to do when asked for money. But giving £2 to someone on the street ultimately helps them stay on the street. We want you £2 to deliver targeted help to get people into homes and into work.”

The network is also recruiting a coordinator, to liaise with partners and community groups, with the job advertised at: https://www.liverpoolbidcompany.com/change-liverpool-network-coordinator-job-opportunity/

Carol Hamlett, Director at Transforming Choice, said:

“We welcome the Change Liverpool initiative; society has become so desensitized to seeing people on the streets and in doorways, it has become the norm to give money directly to the individual. If 100 people beg for 3 days per week for a year, and receive £100 each day, that adds up to over £1.5m each year.

“We’d like to see this money collected into a fund that could support people with a deposit for a flat and enable them to turn it into a home – money for furniture, clothes or a training course, therapeutic sessions or detox and rehabilitation. Imagine the difference this fund could make to people’s lives. Liverpool has always been a trailblazer, let this city be the first city where rough sleeping and begging is not the norm, a city in which we recognize that people are worth more than a couple of pounds. Support the Change Liverpool initiative, and really make a difference to the lives of homeless people in Liverpool.”

Bill Addy, CEO of Liverpool BID Company, said:

“It’s critical we create safe environments for those at risk and what is important here is that with partners coming together it sees the city invest its energy into some of our most vulnerable citizens. Liverpool BID is very proud to be part of this network and host the coordinator because it shows the ability of business to champion support and projects that can provide sustainability and change lives. It is imperative that we are able to find alternative options to tackle homelessness in our city and its streets.”

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