Mersey businesses back drive to ‘end all forms of homelessness’

Seven Liverpool city region firms are spearheading the new Homelessness Business Charter which has come about following the deaths of rough sleepers Aimee Teese and Richard Kehoe. Tony McDonough reports

homeless
Homelessness and rough sleeping has increased in the Liverpool city region. Stock image.

 

Seven leading Liverpool city region businesses are spearheading a new drive to ‘end all forms of homelessness’ after being shocked by the deaths of rough sleepers Aimee Teese and Richard Kehoe.

Property consultancy Avison Young, law firms DLA Piper and MSB, Gaskells Waste, Investec Wealth & Investment Liverpool, Liverpool ONE and Onward Homes are the driving force behind the Liverpool City Region Homelessness Business Charter.

Each has pledged to to make a “tangible contribution” to tackling homelessness, from sponsorship to equipment, from volunteering to pro bono services, and they are urging other businesses to join them.

They will also nominate a Charter Champion from within their business who will receive training from homelessness charity Crisis aimed at raising their awareness of the issues surrounding homelessness.

Philip Rooney of DLA Piper, who is also chair of Professional Liverpool, said: “The national statistics on the number of homeless people dying are truly shocking and quite simply we want to do something about it in our region.”

Public attitudes

A UK first of its kind, the Homelessness Business Charter has been created with the Community Foundation for Merseyside (CFLM) and Liverpool Parish Church to help people out of homelessness. One of its aims is to help change public attitudes to the problem by communicating its complex causes.

In January 2019, Aimee Teese, a 30-year-old mum was found dead in a tent in Vauxhall, Liverpool. Three months later, 40-year-old Richard Kehoe also died in similar circumstances, on Moira Street, near the Royal Liverpool Hospital.

Both of these stories of life and death on the streets were recalled at a high profile conference, Homelessness and Rough Sleeping – Who Cares? in April, held at Liverpool Parish Church, chaired by the University of Liverpool’s urban expert, Professor Michael Parkinson.

The event was attended by 170 people and brought together both Mayors’ offices, experts in homelessness and business leaders. Delegates also heard the compelling lived experience of Karl Smith, who told of his hardship and struggle to escape living on the street.

Profound effect

It inspired the seven businesses to want to do more to help. Mr Rooney added: ““The conference earlier this year had a profound effect on many of us who attended and cleared up a number of misconceptions about homelessness and effective ways to tackle it.

“It became apparent very quickly that there was a clear wish from many businesses to support public and voluntary agencies, with whom we share a common aim, in ending homelessness in the city region.

Philip Rooney
Philip Rooney of law firm DLA Piper

 

“Everyone who works in the city centre sees on a daily basis people with absolutely nothing to their name, living what must be a terrifying existence.  The business community is well placed to make a difference, not only in supporting the initiatives of the various agencies tackling homelessness, but also in spreading the message about the varied causes of homelessness and the best ways to tackle it.

“It’s not just about giving a few coins and a cup of coffee, however welcome that might be. This charter will allow anyone in any business to help in some simple tangible way to alleviate the problem of rough sleeping and homelessness across the region and to assist in spreading accurate information about the issue and its causes.”

The aim is to have 200 businesses signed up to the charter with a designated homelessness Charter Champion from each by the end of 2020.

Growing problem

Last month, the Office for National Statistics recorded that 726 homeless people died in England and Wales in 2018, a rise of 22% on 2017 and the biggest year-on-year rise since it began collecting data.

On the streets, a man can expect to die at about 45 years old, for a woman sleeping rough, life expectancy is lower still at 43. London and the North West had the highest numbers of deaths in 2018, with 148 (20% of the total number) and 103 (14% of the total number) estimated deaths of homeless people respectively.

The initiative is being overseen by CFLM and the Rector of Liverpool, Canon Crispin Pailing. CFLM supports others support their community and since 1999, has distributed in excess of £41 million to charities and community groups in the city region.

Rae Brooke, chief executive of CFLM, said: “The Homelessness Business Charter could be a game changer for our region. Homelessness is a real and growing issue on our streets, it has profound social and economic impacts.”

The initiative is being welcome by Michelle Langan, founder of the Papercup Project in Liverpool, which regularly organises groups of volunteers to go out onto the city’s streets to offer help and assistance to rough sleepers. She told LBN: “It’s heartening to see Liverpool businesses committing to challenging the growing problem of homelessness in Liverpool.

“Our charity were the last people to see Aimee Teese alive, and her death, along with Richard Kehoe’s, could have been prevented with the right resources in place. Offering job and training opportunities to our homeless community will hopefully make a welcome addition to the current services on offer, and give people a route out of homelessness with the right wrap around support.

“The Papercup Project looks forward to seeing how we can fit into this charter, and hopefully local business will get on board by supporting it.”

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