It’s Beam’s first birthday, and the stage is set. The volunteers are in position, Beam-blue goody bags are lined up outside the door, and the grand drawing room of The House of St. Barnabas - a charity in the middle of Soho - is filling up with people chattering amicably. Looking around, the community Beam has gathered in such a short amount of time is astounding. Everyone - members, supporters, civil servants, charity executives and think tankers - is locked in conversation, despite the fact that no one seems to know each other.
I’m Ishani - and I’m a volunteer for the evening, watching this spectacle unfold as I nibble on some popcorn. I’m looking for an opening when Alex comes up to me and asks for some popcorn. ‘Sorry”, he says. “I’ve been too busy to eat all day, I hope I’m lucid enough to make a speech later!’ he laughs.
I’m not surprised. In a room packed to the brim with well-wishers from all sectors and walks of life, the Beam team must know they’re building something special. In the past year, Beam has brought in 1773 supporters (more than 400 of whom give each month), and more than £150k in donations to fund employment training for people experiencing homelessness. Above all, the Beam platform has already supported 14 members into stable work - with 21 members still in training.
At just a year old, Beam has tapped into a sense of powerlessness that people often feel in relation to homelessness and turned that into positive action. Every supporter I meet gushes about how they love seeing their donation, large or small, filter through to changing someone’s life.. “Seeing the members, getting updates from them - it really makes my day,” said one supporter I met, who’s been supporting Beam since the beginning. “I love knowing that I can help, and seeing that direct impact.”
Jeremy Swain of the Ministry of Housing put it beautifully: “When you support Beam, you’re talking about supporting an individual, not a made-up person.” Beam is allowing anyone to connect with a homeless person and fund their training, seeing exactly where their money goes on each person’s transparent online budget.
Beam also gives a voice to homeless people through their online stories and the first birthday party was no exception. Tracy, one of Beam’s first members, spoke to the whole room: “Beam is my family. Beam’s supporters are my family, and they keep me going.” Since being referred to Beam, Tracy is now training as a Housing Support Worker, alongside her current job in housing assistance.
Tony, a Beam member who trained and is now working as an electrician, looked moved when in his speech, he said, ‘It’s so nice and touching that there are so many fantastic people who’ve got a lot of love, and are willing to show someone compassion. Long may it continue.’
And long may it continue! Here’s to many more birthdays, and many more members and supporters. At one year old, Beam has come a long way - and the journey’s only just begun. “The first year is for testing and growing our model - but the second year is where we want to grow our community,” Alex, Beam’s CEO’s, stated in his speech. And that’s where you come in.