Pioneering project sees Manchester businesses come together to help tackle homelessness

15th Jul 2019

In a first of its kind collaboration in the UK, a number of businesses in Manchester have committed to the St John’s Homelessness initiative (SJHI), created to contribute towards ending homelessness in the city.

The SJHI has three main objectives; inclusive employment, financial support and awareness raising and is a collaboration between all the organisations involved in the St. John’s scheme development. This includes Allied London, Laing O’Rourke, Lendlease and Mclaren, working alongside DWP, Manchester City Council, the Manchester Homelessness Partnership, Big Change MCR and CityCo to ensure the efforts and donations made are channeled to the most relevant places.

St John’s’ is a one billion pound new development in the centre of Manchester – situated near to Spinningfields. Once constructed, the site will be mixed-mode and plans to include 2,500 new homes, 600,000sq ft of workspace, and 400,000sq ft of leisure space. The 6-acre plot is led by Allied London and is being described as Manchester’s newest neighbourhood with a cultural community to surround The Factory – a new arts venue (led by Laing O’Rourke). It is estimated that a workforce of 2,500 people will be required at the peak of the development.

Created to run for the duration of the St. John’s development, if this pioneering project proves successful, it could act as a meaningful and sustainable model which could be rolled out to other developments across Manchester. Work on the agreed objectives between all parties has already begun.

Inclusive employment

Employment creation is a key focus and will begin with the launch of an online job portal in partnership with Street Support Network and the Manchester Homelessness Partnership. Organisations can post any available vacancies on the portal, with partners hoping to recruit a number of their roles from the portal.

Gareth Ford & Phil Stanley of Career Builder International based in Manchester created the online portal which is called “Inclusive Jobs.” Launching in July 2019 the portal is a unique online jobsite focusing jobs and a recruitment service dedicated to bringing job offers to people facing barriers to employment.

Awareness raising

By talking about the issue of homelessness and what they can to do to help – within their own business and in their supply chains, partners will help to raise awareness. Each partner permit will provide opportunities for employees to go to homeless ambassador training, to increase knowledge on the subject and provide further support.

Financial support

SJHI aims to raise £250,000 a year, with support coming in many forms from the initiative’s partners. 50% of the proceeds will go to Big Change Manchester and 50% will go to Manchester Homelessness Partnership and Street Support Network. There is a SJHI Just Giving page, with each leading partner having a fundraisers page which links directly to it.

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Dee Lowry, from the Manchester Homelessness Partnership, said; “It’s been fantastic to see the skills and knowledge of all the partners involved coming together for this cause. Inclusive employment is a massive need for our city and I think we’ll only get there if the business and charity worlds understand each other better. This is one of the things we’re trying to do through this initiative.”

Gabriel Erinle, Operations Director at Allied London; said: “I signed the Manchester Homeless Charter in 2015 on behalf of Allied London. Since then my knowledge, understanding and appreciation for the challenges that face the homeless, the charities and local authorities that work tirelessly to support them has grown exponentially.

The SJHI was a proposal that I pooled together from my knowledge and experience of co-production, collaboration and sincerity that I have gained. I believe that businesses and charities should work together to bring a sustainable scheme to provide 3 fundamental requirements if we are to succeed in eradicating homelessness in Manchester. Employment, Raising Awareness and the generation of funding for as long as is needed as a legacy that outgrows the construction phase of St. John`s but continues with the occupiers and residents of the estate.”

Councillor Sue Murphy, deputy leader of Manchester City Council, said: “This is a brilliant initiative which will help people who are homeless in Manchester both by connecting them with job opportunities and raising funds for the extensive support services available. These services help people to address any underlying issues which have contributed to them becoming homeless – such as debt or health problems – and to move into settled accommodation. The Council is delighted to be part of this idea and we commend the sense of social responsibility being shown by the companies involved.”

Alex King, Partnership Director at CityCo, said: “CityCo works with the city centre business community to help end homelessness and the St John’s Homelessness Initiative embodies everything we do as an organisation – supporting practical projects that positively impact homelessness and educating businesses around the complexity of this very important issue. This collaboration an incredibly positive step forward and we’re looking forward to seeing this gain momentum in the coming months.”

Simon Gorski, Executive General Manager, Lendlease Europe said: “As a developer Lendlease has the unique opportunity to create places and shape the way in which they are used. As part of this, we work alongside local people and organisations to ensure that what we do has a long-term positive impact on the lives of the whole community, including those in hard to reach areas. We look forward to working with all involved in the St. John’s Homelessness Initiative and are passionate about the work we can do together to offer more support to those who are currently homeless or rough sleeping.”

Melanie Collett, head of asset management, real estate, Aviva Investors, said: “One of our key objectives for the St John’s development, and our investments elsewhere in Manchester, is to create a positive legacy for the local economy and community. We are therefore extremely proud to become a partner of the St John’s Homelessness Initiative, which we believe will play a vital role in addressing such a critical issue.”

‘Tom’ has a background in marketing and shares his experience of moving into employment after a stint of homelessness:

“I sort of slipped into this role. Right place, right time. Supported by the right people. I would have quite happily made butties in a sandwich shop and I know the world doesn’t owe people favours. Work (pre and post homelessness) has always given me the stability and routine that I need. But I’m guessing this is the same for everyone? Homelessness leaves you with a massive sense of failure, personally and professionally. Employers need to commit to encouragement – it takes a while.”

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The partners involved in St John’s Homelessness Initiative are:

Allied London
Big Change MCR
Career Builder – Inclusive Jobs
CityCo: The City Centre Management Company
Department for Work and Pensions
Forever Manchester
Laing O’Rourke
Lendlease
Manchester City Council
Manchester Homelessness Partnership
McLaren Construction
Street Support Network
Supply Chain Organisations of Allied London, Laing O’Rourke, Lendlease and McLaren (which includes Aviva Investors)