The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) and local councils across the region have launched a new winter campaign to help rough sleepers and those at risk of becoming homeless.
‘There’s a Better Way’ is the latest campaign for the alternative giving scheme, Change into Action, which is now in its fifth year. It asks West Midlands residents to look out for people in their local areas who might be sleeping rough or at risk of homelessness so that they can be connected to local support services.
To launch this winter’s campaign, Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, and Cllr Sharon Thompson, chair of the WMCA Homelessness Taskforce Members Advisory Group visited Birmingham’s Christmas Market to hand out leaflets to stallholders, other local businesses, and shoppers.
Rather than directly giving money to those begging on the street or at the road side, the campaign highlights alternative ways of helping so that people can get off the streets for good. This includes a donation to Change Into Action and advice on how to seek support from street outreach teams as well as ways of spreading the word through social media.
The money raised by Change into Action is used in a variety of ways to make a change in the lives of people who need it. This includes providing accommodation, access to healthcare, clothing and training that could help secure a job.
The initiative is led by the WMCA Homelessness Taskforce and was originally set up by Mayor Andy Street in partnership with Birmingham City Council in late 2017. Over time it has grown to include the local councils in Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, and Walsall, with Wolverhampton having a similar scheme called Alternative Giving CIO.
Thanks to the generosity of residents and local business more than £220,000 has been raised across the region through Change into Action and Alternative Giving CIO, helping to change many people’s lives for the better.
Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “By working together, the region has done a good job of helping society’s most vulnerable and reducing the number of rough sleepers on our streets. However, there is still so much more to be done, and we know winter is traditionally a very challenging time for those sleeping rough.
“That is why we have launched the ‘There’s a Better Way campaign’, spearheaded by our Change into Action scheme. We know there is a huge number of people who want to help those less fortunate than us and make a difference, but often do not know how. This campaign looks to address this, and ultimately help improve people’s lives.”
Councillor Sharon Thompson, who is also Birmingham City Council’s cabinet member for vulnerable children, families and homelessness, added: “As a councillor, I know only too well how emotive it is being asked for money on the street by someone who may appear to be homeless.
“I also know that the people of Birmingham and the West Midlands are generous and want to help, but sometimes it is not easy to know how best to help or what the true circumstances of the individual are. By donating directly to Change into Action you can be sure that your money will directly and personally help someone who has been sleeping rough.
“Trusted local charities and street outreach teams work with anyone who has been sleeping rough to identify those things that can really make a change to their life.” The notification will go directly to a street outreach team who will follow up with an offer of help.