Doing something for its own sake

Sometimes, doing the mundane allows you the headspace to set to one side the frustrating part of disappointment and allows the obvious to rear up and slap you around the chops.

Since we had to come to the realisation that we cannot operate StreetWise the way we had originally intended, with the homeless selling our publications, building up their own funding and plotting their own course into a sustainable lifestyle, I have been in somewhat of a fog.

My house is full of StreetWise paperwork; files, boxes and office paraphernalia and represents what my home has looked like for years during my undergraduate and post-graduate studies.  A study area with household furniture arranged around it.

I’m reaching the point in life where I would like my home to look like a home but there is the stumbling block of actually enjoying what I do.  So, my time out as been merely to regroup and do the mundane stuff.  I often find there is clarify in doing this.

During our funding journey since June last year, there has been a major conundrum that I haven’t been able to solve; why a major, multi-million Pound grant giving charity, that is funded by public money, rejected us three times.

The first time, I’ll given them quarter in that we were over ambitious and, admittedly, had no experience in running such a venture.  The second time, we asked for less, and the application was seriously tuned up.  Now, this organisation runs a couple of funding initiatives, the major one being a two-stage affair.  Everything about the StreetWise proposal was ripe for going to that second stage.  Apparently not.

I complained, believing there to be impropriety due to the charity’s relationship with another big name in homelessness and a big media influencer.  We were invited to apply again for what was “a very unique proposal”.  We did, knowing we would be turned down for a third time.

The thing that utterly puzzled me – apart from the inference in the third rejection letter that the homeless are not a community – was that this organisation has funded many homelessness initiatives and projects, so why wouldn’t they fund us, or at least, take us to the second stage?

As we were about to launch, we sent a round robin out to all of the organisations that had indicated they would like to refer their clients to us, inviting them to begin that process.  We received precisely one referral.  The rest of them, we got ourselves – 36 to be precise.  Thirty six people who had decided they wanted to have a go.

Dave went and visited many of the organisations who had said they would like to refer clients.  The key one which stands out is an organisation out in the great North West area.  His presence there, he commented, made him feel “like a fart in a space suit”.  Unwelcome.  Unwanted.  People were uncomfortable with him being there.

The reason for that became apparent when the manager of the facility indicated that because we hadnamed them as a proposed referral partner in our application to this large, publicly funded, grant giving organisation, they had been advised that they would be losing be losing funding which they had been receiving from this same organisation.

This kind of impropriety was pretty astonishing. It seemed to use the reasoning that if they were referring their clients to the StreetWise programme, then their facility wouldn’t be needed.  This is a leap of worst case scenario thinking that goes beyond reasonable, as we have never maintained that StreetWise would be some sort of cure all solution.  It would only work for people who wanted to engage with it.  We have never been delusional enough to think it would be a solution for every homeless person.

Anyway, my point is that whilst unpacking shopping and putting it away, it struck me that our repeated failure with that large, publicly funded, grant giving organisation can be explained away.  Given that they exhibited astounding indiscretion in their communication with the homeless centre they basically threatened with reduction in funding, this leads me to the only conclusion I can logically come to:  if StreetWise works, then every homeless project they have funded would be viewed in the same way by them.

If StreetWise works, there would be a reduction in the need for services from homeless service providers.  But would there?  I don’t believe there would be.  Every service they offer would still be used, just for a shorter period of time, by only a percentage of the people who use their services.

Surely that’s a good thing?  That there would be a percentage of homeless people needing those services on a reduced basis for a shorter period of time?  Isn’t that the aim of all organisations set up to help the homeless?  Isn’t that their purpose?


One thought on “Doing something for its own sake

  1. The objective of every charity should be their redundancy because the problem no longer exists. Unfortunately the funding problems under the current government mean that there has been a massive loss of services because of a refusal to accept the extent of the problem and an even more profound refusal to fund the services needed. This has brought out the least attractive view of the third sector – which is to bunker down and see other services as competition, rather than partnering up and providing a strong, united front to government to force their hands and to work together to provide a coalition of services to address the needs of the homeless. It is understandable however it is not acceptable. When the sector loses sight of its mission because of its fear of losing its own funding, then we are divided and we will all fall down together. The sector needs to remember that united we stand and that while there are an increasing number of homeless people more hands are needed on deck to solve it. The funding is an issue that can only be addressed with a coalition of ALL homelessness charities working together with a clear view on the prize. StreetWise is an incredibly good idea and it may be that another approach is needed but a few heads together, a brainstorm and a few more committed souls to help you and Dave see past the incredible disappointment could genuinely help to see the wood for the trees.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *