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Putting Change into Action to help people rough sleeping this winter

Published: Tuesday 12 Dec 2023

Generous public donations totalling more than £280,000 have helped provide much needed support and protection for those sleeping rough on the streets of the West Midlands as part of the year-round Change into Action alternative giving campaign.

This week sees the launch of the annual winter campaign to remind local people of the importance of helping to locate people experiencing homelessness so they can be connected to support services and helped to move off the streets and into accommodation.

To raise awareness about this year’s seasonal campaign, Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and chair of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), visited the Frankfurt Christmas Market in Birmingham with Cllr Jayne Francis, Birmingham City Council’s cabinet member for housing and homelessness, to hand out leaflets to stallholders, other local businesses and shoppers.

Festive shoppers and visitors to the popular market have the chance to make donations to Change into Action with a simple swipe of a bank card or smart phone.

Two contactless points set up by the Colmore Business Improvement District (BID) are located at 200 Degrees Coffee Shop on Colmore Row and at Snowhill Station.

Details of how to donate in other areas of the region, and how to help locate people rough sleeping can be found on the Change into Action website.

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and chair of the West Midlands Combined Authority, and Cllr Jayne Francis, Birmingham City Council's cabinet member for housing and homelessness, with representatives from local charities that support homeless people.

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and chair of the West Midlands Combined Authority, and Cllr Jayne Francis, Birmingham City Council's cabinet member for housing and homelessness, with representatives from local charities that support homeless people.

The Mayor said: “At this time of year, our thoughts and prayers often turn to the circumstances of the less fortunate. We know that conditions during the winter period present the greatest risks to the health of people who sleep rough and that is why we are working in close collaboration with our local authority and wider partners to ensure that every effort is made to connect individuals with appropriate services to meet their needs and support them to move away from sleeping on the streets for good.

“Any rough sleeper is one too many, but in recent years we have made good progress in helping society’s most vulnerable - with the number of rough sleepers in the West Midlands now almost half what it was five years ago.

"Part of the reason this has been made possible is thanks to the generosity of citizens in this region, who have donated more than £280,000 to Change into Action since its launch. And this winter we are asking again that if people are in a position to do so then they continue supporting the campaign, so that together we can ensure there is a route off the streets for every single person who finds themselves there.”

Part of the work of the WMCA’s Homelessness Taskforce, Change into Action is a regional alternative giving campaign, which encourages people to make an online donation rather than giving money to people asking for change on the streets.

It was launched as a pilot in Birmingham in 2017 and subsequently rolled out across Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, and Walsall, with Wolverhampton having a similar scheme called Alternative Giving CIO.

All donations collected throughout the year personally benefit a person sleeping rough with trusted local charities and street teams working with individuals to identify those things that can really make a change to their personal circumstances

The money raised so far in generous donations has supported around 750 individuals to move away from rough sleeping.

Cllr Jayne Francis, Birmingham City Council’s cabinet member for housing and homelessness, said: "It can be difficult to determine how best to assist someone who may seem to be homeless. By donating directly to Change into Action, you can be certain that your money will go directly to help someone who is sleeping rough.

"Every penny goes directly to trusted local charities and street outreach teams who know how best to use the money to help those in need. Over the years, thanks to the generosity of the Birmingham public, Change into Action has helped to improve the lives of hundreds of homeless people in the city.

"We know the cost-of-living crisis means that money is tight for many, but we appreciate any contribution, no matter how small."

Cllr Laura Taylor-Childs, Dudley Council’s cabinet member for housing and safer communities, said: “Since Change into Action launched a couple of years ago in Dudley borough more than £3,000 has been donated to help people in need.

“The money has been used to provide essential items such as kitchen appliances and beds to people who have been supported to overcome rough sleeping or homelessness and secure a tenancy.

“We really value the generosity of every person or organisation that has donated and made this possible. Every donation counts, even from as little as £2.

“Change into Action provides a real opportunity to make sure the money you donate is put to good use and offers a genuine alternative to giving money to people begging on the streets. In our borough, we know that a majority of people begging are not homeless, and staff from our homelessness prevention team are regularly speaking to them to offer support, accommodation and advice.

“Sadly, giving cash to people begging in our town centres does not help solve the issues they face. To truly make a difference, I’d urge people to donate to a charitable cause, such as Change into Action.”

Cllr Laura Rollins, Sandwell Council’s cabinet member for housing and built environment, said: “Sandwell Council is committed to preventing households from becoming homeless and supported almost 6,000 cases in the last 12 months, with approximately 60% of these prevented from becoming roofless and remaining in their home.

“The council is also very successful at preventing people from ever sleeping rough and where this does occur, offers help and support, including emergency accommodation, from a dedicated team of staff within the Complex Hub. In the last 12 months the Complex Hub has helped around 100 people who were at risk of or already sleeping rough with a large number of these supported to move on to their own home.

"The council provides emergency accommodation and support for rough sleepers throughout the year and will provide help and support to anyone who is at risk of or rough sleeping in Sandwell.

"Sandwell Council works with the voluntary sector and any funding awards from donations made to Change into Action in Sandwell are decided by a panel of partners that considers applications.”

Cllr Mark Parker, Solihull Council’s cabinet member for housing, said: “Building on the work we began last year with our new Rough Sleeper Outreach Team, we have increased our capacity for outreach work and are helping more people to safely move off the streets and into accommodation. The team is aided by our residents, partners and local businesses who continue to work with us, reporting people they think are rough sleeping to StreetLink, who pass the info back to the team.

“Working together, in the last year we have prevented 370 households from becoming homeless and helped 614 people into long term housing. We have also been helped to provide additional grant support by donations to Change into Action Solihull. Recently we’ve awarded three grants to young people with a history of homelessness. These have covered the costs of furnishings and flooring, making their accommodation more homely and nicer places to live, helping to break the chain of rough sleeping.

“Our message continues to be – nobody needs to sleep rough, let’s work together to help homeless people. Please help us by reporting anyone you think is sleeping rough via StreetLink, the national reporting system, and supporting Change into Action Solihull if you are able.”

Cllr Garry Perry, Walsall Council’s deputy leader and portfolio holder for resilient communities, said: “Homelessness is a devastating issue that can have a profound impact on the lives of vulnerable people in our community. We are committed to tackling homelessness in the borough and we are grateful for our Change in Action funding. This a valuable resource that helps us make a real difference.

“This is achieved through initiatives like the Glebe Centre, a multi-functional hub where a variety of services are delivered that seek to provide support to vulnerable adults in Walsall.

“Staff and volunteers at the Glebe Centre provide a combination of support services such as cook and eat sessions and practical facilities to support the health and wellbeing of individuals who have differing, complex needs. These sessions are funded by Change into Action and they teach people essential life skills such as budgeting, cooking, and using the internet.”

Cllr Steve Evans, City of Wolverhampton Council’s cabinet member for housing, said: “We aim to ensure that no-one has to sleep rough on the streets of Wolverhampton. Services across the city offer advice and support about accommodation options for those who find themselves homeless or who may be at risk of losing their home.

“We work with the West Midlands Combined Authority to tackle rough sleeping as part of a coordinated regional response. During the severe cold weather extra emergency accommodation can be arranged for people who would otherwise sleep rough. This is alongside usual offers of accommodation and support.
“We also ask that if people see someone sleeping rough to raise an alert through the StreetLink website and an outreach team will visit them to discuss their options.

“In Wolverhampton people can donate to the Alternative Giving Charity to support homeless charities and organisations in the city. This is the best way to make a positive change in the city. However, we know money is tight and equally welcome offers of time, skills or products to support these charities. More information can be found at”

Find out more how public donations are helping to make a positive difference to the lives of local people who unfortunately find themselves sleeping rough on the Change into Action website.

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