According to New Hope statistics, around 274,000 people in England are currently experiencing homelessness, which means that 1 in every 206 people do not have a stable home. In December 2021, a report found that 1 in every 81 people in Manchester were homeless. Additionally, these statistics are based only on registered homeless individuals and do not offer an estimate for those who have not registered with a shelter or charity in England. Recent statistics from Shelter also reveal that London has the highest rates of homelessness, with one in 53 people currently without a home in the capital. These statistics highlight the severe homelessness crisis in England, with numbers set to rise alongside the growing cost of living in the UK. In this spotlight article, we want to recognise the companies working to combat homelessness in the UK.
HSBC No Fixed Address
Recently, the bank HSBC launched an advert called ‘Vicious Cycle’, which highlighted the difficulties of securing housing, jobs, and a bank account without having a fixed address. To combat this, HSBC has a No Fixed Address programme, which requires homeless people to register with one of their partnered shelters where all letters and billing will be addressed in place of a home address. This allows individuals to set up an account and provides additional financial advice. The advert released by HSBC was particularly impactful because it showed viewers how people could become trapped in the cycle of homelessness without being able to list a fixed address. The visualisation of this cycle also emphasises the society’s failings to recognise the flawed systems that prevent social mobility. We think the HSBC advert for their no-fixed address programme is an impactful strategy that educates on homelessness and improves trustworthiness in the bank. HSBC isn't the only bank that has taken significant steps to engage in social issues; Santander has initiated programmes to support refugees and run programmes for employees to work within refugee organisations and run career training.
The Pret Foundation
First up is Pret A Manger, the chain sandwich shop committed to supporting homeless people and homeless shelters for 25 years under the Pret Foundation. In October 2021, The Pret Foundation released an advert explaining how its work has changed since the pandemic. The Advert highlighted the importance of donations in getting food to people each day. Importantly, the advert emphasises that homeless people are just ordinary people who are struggling, and that this has grown since the pandemic with increasing job loss. The Pret advert is joining in on the call to confront stereotypes surrounding homeless people, whilst also making it clear that these are people who are made even more vulnerable by the pandemic and the colder months. The foundation donates surplus food from stores to local homeless shelters to ease reliance on individuals and food banks and to avoid food waste. This is a pretty solid example of how big companies can commit to supporting social causes that are logical, simple, and effective. As Pret’s website acknowledges, the food received from shelters can often be the only guaranteed meal for people living with unstable sleeping conditions. Another step that the company takes to help homeless people is its ‘Rising Star Programme’. The Rising Star Programme gives opportunities to people without a fixed address and people with criminal records. The programme also helps people on the programme with food, travel and accommodation, as well as weekly meetings with advice on building job skills and keeping a job. You can check out some people’s experiences in the programme here.
BlankFaces is a unique streetwear brand based in Glasgow and it is the UK’s first clothing label whose purpose is to combat homelessness in the UK. The innovative and creative styles are inspired by or created by those who have or are experiencing homelessness. The brand effectively uplifts the voices of homeless people and provides practical financial and career support to the community. The designer of the individual product receives a percentage of every product sold. The rest of the profit at the end of the year is donated to help the small organisations the company has selected to support. In working to support a community of people who have or are experiencing homelessness in the UK, the brand also runs workshops and meetings with staff, volunteers and people experiencing homelessness. BlankFaces aims to change the conversation around homelessness and how individuals coping with this are stereotyped. The brand wants to give a face to the individuals and identify the real issues that cause homelessness.
In addition to supporting homeless communities, the brand highlights key issues affecting homeless people. One example of this is the Bellgrove Hotel in the Gallowgate area which, due to poor living conditions, became a hostel for homeless people. The social justice minister of Scotland in 2000 committed to replacing homeless hostels in Glasgow with smaller-scale accommodation to help those with drug, alcohol, and wider health issues. However, as a result, many homeless people using the hostel were pushed out of the building and back onto the streets. One of the brand designers used this story as inspiration for the brand's artistic designs, and it is a great example of how companies can translate their brand messages into products that benefit the causes they believe in. Recently the BlankFaces has been expanding its creative team to work in Manchester and you can check out their upcoming designs on their website. Manchester has the highest homelessness rate outside of the South East and so the expansion of brands such as The BlankFaces offers an inspiring insight into how Manchester businesses can support homeless communities. The BlankFaces team have recommended working with Invisible Manchester, Life Share UK, and Mustard Tree MCR if you are interested in donating or volunteering. You can check out their upcoming designs, some of which are inspired by Manchester stories and charities here.
Marks & Start
Our next spotlight company that is supporting homeless people in the UK is Marks and Spencers. M&S runs a variation of initiatives aimed at targeting the multiple different obstacles that homeless people face. First on the list is the Marks and Start Programme. The programme supports the job applications of a range of disadvantaged people, including those with no fixed address. M&S works with the organisation Business in the Community to support people who are homeless or could be at risk of becoming homeless. The M&S spotlight on the programme lays out the process: “Following pre-placement training from a charity partner, participants spent 2-4 weeks on a training placement in one of our stores or offices. They are then supported post-placement by our partners to maximise their employment prospects. If they show real aptitude, they can be offered a vacant role in any store within six months without having to apply or be assessed.” Alongside its employability scheme, M&S is a long-time partner of the homeless charity Shelter. M&S Festive Food donates a percentage of all profit to Shelter, its head office donates sample clothing to Shelter, and through the Sparks card, M&S and its customers can donate to the charity. M&S and its customers have raised £13 million for Shelter since 2005. M&S food joins in each year with the much anticipated release of Christmas adverts and its a great opportunity for the company to highlight its donations to UK Charities which include Shelter. The sentimental ads that often highlight the joy of giving and family traditions provides a powerful moment for viewers to reflect on the experience of homeless people at Christmas. In 2016 its Shelter Surprise Advert emphasised the ease with which customers can support charities such as Shelter. The advert stated that by shopping at the festive food range, M&S funds 1 in 5 helpline staff during the Christmas period. Although Marks & Spencer is definitely not in the affordable food range, it’s a great opportunity to do more with your money if that’s something you are capable of doing.
Coca-Cola and Crisis
One of the world’s biggest companies on our list is Coca-Cola. The company has been a long-standing partner of the homeless charity Crisis, which primarily focuses on providing aid to homeless people during the Christmas period. Typically, Coca-Cola donates money per can bought or ordered by customers. In a recent campaign, customers could order a free personalised can of Coke Zero during the festive period, and £2 would be donated for every order. This generated a donation of £50,000. Though Coca-Cola sets a great example in the giving season, as a company that made 23.298 Billion Dollars between March 2021 and March 2022 and is worth 87.6 billion US Dollars overall, their donations seem somewhat meagre in comparison. Whilst we happily recognise that any donations and efforts made by companies to help those who are struggling are great, we’ve felt that some of the smaller companies such as BlankFaces or more practical support such as Pret have the farthest-reaching impact.
Breaking the Cycle
It’s great when we can all do our part to support those who need help; however, for the little man, even just a chat and supermarket sandwich here and there can really make a difference for people. The breaking of the cycle of homelessness has to come from the top, and supporting businesses that use their money and reach for good is a great way to work towards that without feeling like you have to make large donations. We love companies who use their profits for good, so make sure you take a look at which causes your favourite brands support and see what more could be done to end the cycle of homelessness in the UK. At Digital Media Team, we’re making efforts to support our local community where possible, too. DMT donated to Salford Foodbank last Christmas, as well as supporting the collection of food bank donations for the Manchester-based homeless charity Mustard Tree through our workplace’s initiative. Make sure to research your local charities and food banks to see what you can do to support people at risk of being homeless or who are homeless.