How Do You Solve a Problem Like Homelessness

 “I’m always reassured that as many daunting problems that we have, we have so many great people out there solving them”. – Anna Markland, Co-Host and Venture Manager.

Since 2010, homelessness has doubled in the UK. Now, over 4,000 people sleep rough every night. The problem is growing, and there are many complicated structural factors contributing to this including welfare policies, housing supply and prices, and poverty, as well as social stigma. The good news is that there are many people and organisations working to create solutions, in different ways.

In the fifth episode of How Do You Solve a Problem Like..? we spoke to two such people: Meg Doherty from Fat Macy’s, and Cemal Ezel of Change Please. They are looking at how they can support people out of homelessness with food and drink, providing a way into a work, and then going beyond that too. They talked about their experiences and lessons from starting and growing social businesses that make a difference.

Fat Macy’s supper clubs train and support young Londoners living in temporary accommodation, helping them move into their own homes.

You might know Change Please, a social enterprise which trains homeless people to become baristas and helps them into onward employment, from Virgin Trains and their memorable slogan, “literally life changing coffee”.

They show you can make a difference, when there is real commitment, and drive. They also talk about the importance of trust in other people’s expertise. For Meg that meant stepping away from the food part of the work, and hiring a culinary director. This way they got the quality up to an amazing standard and are able to compete with other people in the food business. Cemal discovered that getting people off the streets is just one small part of homelessness. So he built on the foundation of their business model and now not only provides a living wage job, but also support getting a bank account, in-house therapy and housing support.

In the episode we also get brutally honest about the challenges of being taken seriously as a social business, and particularly the tough decisions that come up when expanding.

Meg discusses how they had opportunities that would have been amazing for business, but bad for their trainees which they had to turn down, “in a way that makes it better for your business because you really have to consider every option and decision really carefully.”

Plus we get into the experience of being a CEO, and managing the transitions of business leadership. Being linked to the brand in as the individual isn’t always great. It is really important to empower others to tell the story of your business.

Listen to their stories by downloading episode five of How Do You Solve A Problem Like..? now. You can either stream it directly in your browser on our website, or if you already use a podcast app you can find it there and subscribe. It is available on iTunes, AcastPodbeanPocketcasts and Spotify.

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Author Info


Ruth Coustick-Deal

UnLtd award winners all have fascinating stories about their ventures and why they do what they do. My role is to ensure these stories are told and seen by the world. I want to make sure all the teams at UnLtd communicate their work effectively, and that they have the best tools to do so. I have a background in political campaigning, spending the last seven years trying to improve human rights in the UK. In my spare time I co-host and produce a podcast about technology and its impact on society, and enjoy drawing and making art

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