Regional business leaders have launched an initiative challenging themselves to help end all forms of homelessness in Liverpool city region.
A UK first of its kind, the Liverpool City Region Homelessness Business Charter has been created with the Community Foundation for Merseyside (CFLM) and Liverpool Parish Church to help people out of homelessness. One of its aims is to help change public attitudes to the problem by communicating its complex causes.
It’s the first time that the charitable sectors have worked with the business community in this way.
Signatories to the charter, developed by the business leaders, CFLM and Liverpool Parish Church will pledge to make a tangible contribution from the charter "menu" - from sponsorship to equipment, from volunteering to pro bono services.
They will also nominate a Charter Champion from within their business who will receive training from homelessness charity Crisis aimed at raising their awareness of the issues surrounding homelessness; the Champions will then ensure that their colleagues are kept informed about homelessness issues and the various initiatives which are seeking to tackle them.
The aim is to have 200 businesses signed up to the charter with a designated homelessness charter champion from each by the end of 2020.
Last month, the Office for National Statistics recorded that 726 homeless people died in England and Wales in 2018, a rise of 22% on 2017 and the biggest year-on-year rise since it began collecting data. On the streets, a man can expect to die at about 45 years old, for a woman sleeping rough, life expectancy is lower still at 43. London and the North West had the highest numbers of deaths in 2018, with 148 (20% of the total number) and 103 (14% of the total number) estimated deaths of homeless people respectively.
In January 2019, Aimee Teese, a 30-year-old mum was found dead in a tent in Vauxhall, Liverpool. Three months later, 40-year-old Richard Kehoe also died in similar circumstances, on Moira Street, near the Royal Liverpool Hospital. Both of these tragic stories of life and death on the streets were recalled at a high profile conference, ‘Homelessness and Rough Sleeping – Who Cares?’ in April at Liverpool Parish Church, chaired by the University of Liverpool’s urban expert, Professor Michael Parkinson.
The day was attended by 170 people and brought together both Mayors’ offices, experts in homelessness and business leaders. Delegates also heard the compelling lived experience of Karl Smith, who told of his hardship and struggle to escape living on the street.
Afterwards leaders from seven businesses: Avison Young, DLA Piper, Gaskells Waste, Investec, Liverpool ONE, MSB and Onward Homes, united in a desire to help tackle the situation, challenging themselves to end homelessness in the city and wider region and to encourage other businesses to join them.
Philip Rooney of DLA Piper who is chair of Professional Liverpool said: “The national statistics on the number of homeless people dying are truly shocking and quite simply we want to do something about it in our region.
“The conference earlier this year had a profound effect on many of us who attended and cleared up a number of misconceptions about homelessness and effective ways to tackle it. It became apparent very quickly that there was a clear wish from many businesses to support public and voluntary agencies, with whom we share a common aim, in ending homelessness in the city region.
“Everyone who works in the city centre sees on a daily basis people with absolutely nothing to their name, living what must be a terrifying existence. The business community is well placed to make a difference, not only in supporting the initiatives of the various agencies tackling homelessness, but also in spreading the message about the varied causes of homelessness and the best ways to tackle it.
“It’s not just about giving a few coins and a cup of coffee, however welcome that might be. This charter will allow anyone in any business to help in some simple tangible way to alleviate the problem of rough sleeping and homelessness across the region and to assist in spreading accurate information about the issue and its causes.
“We are pledging to utilise our resources to make a difference to help people back into their communities and families and to support those who are ‘on the brink’. We would ask all businesses to sign up to this charter which is really quite simple so that collectively we can make a real change for the better.”
The initiative is being overseen by CFLM and the Rector of Liverpool, Canon Crispin Pailing. CFLM supports others support their community and since 1999, has distributed in excess of £41 million to charities and community groups in the city region.
Rae Brooke, CEO of CFLM, said: “The Homelessness Business Charter could be a game changer for our region. Homelessness is a real and growing issue on our streets, it has profound social and economic impacts.
“Many rough sleepers are found in commercial centres where they look for support from the public. Businesses are therefore all too aware of the problem and have decided that they can help in a more meaningful way and for the long term.
“There are already many organisations, as well as the city and borough councils and the combined authority, doing some great work, but this charter extends the effort further, bringing in another element of the region’s community.
“In so doing this campaign is also designed to help educate the public about the problem, to change the way we talk about it and to shift perceptions of homelessness and rough sleeping.”
The new campaign is being supported by Crisis, the national charity for homeless people.
Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive, who also attended the conference in April, said: “That levels of all forms of homelessness are continuously rising both in Liverpool, and across Great Britain, is truly alarming.
“Everyone has a right to a decent, affordable home, and the Homelessness Business Charter is a positive and welcome initiative, reflecting their aim to end homelessness. The business community in Liverpool has a powerful voice and the Charter shows a real commitment to both ending homelessness and using its influence to promote wider understanding to push for real change.”