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Featured Image Credit: Beam
Without doubt one of the biggest issues facing the UK is that of homelessness - especially at this time of year, when temperatures are dropping to such fierce levels that some people simply won't make it through the night if they're sleeping rough. One homeless man was found dead just last weekend after having to spend a night in freezing cold weather.
There are lots of ideas for how to tackle the problem - including Action Hunger launching the world's first vending machine for homeless people. The vending machines are a short-term solution to provide those in need with such essentials as food, clean clothing, toothbrushes and other sanitary products on a 24/7 basis.
However, sometimes it's hard to know how to help solve the wider problem. But one tech startup, backed by innovation funding from the Mayor of London, thinks it might just have the answer.
Credit: Beam / YouTube
Beam is the world's first crowdfunding platform that helps homeless people train up to get into work. Anyone can contribute either one-off or monthly payments, as small or big as they like.
The members are then referred through partnerships with homelessness charities like St Mungo's, The House of St Barnabas and Thames Reach, and after training they can even choose to re-donate their funding to future campaigns.
"I believe people want to help but feel powerless," says Beam Founder and 'serial tech CEO', Alex Stephany.
"My question was: 'how can I take a small amount of money but make the smartest possible investment in someone's future, helping them out of homelessness for good?'
"At Beam, we believe it's by working together to crowdfund new skills and employment training."
Since it started its pilot back in September, it's proven positive. Its first member - a homeless man living in a South East London hostel called Tony - is already doing well.
Beam Member Manager, Seb Barker, and member, Joe, who has successfully trained up as a crane rigger. Credit: Beam
In less than a month, Tony successfully funded his campaign to qualify as an electrician, raising £4,378 ($5,871) from 136 supporters. He's now training to become a fully-qualified electrician.
Since September, eight campaigns have been fully funded and over £25,000 ($33,000) has been raised for campaigns. People have donated from as little as £1 ($1.30) right through to £1,000 ($1,340). One campaign was even fully funded within just five days.
Along with backing from the Mayor of London, innovation foundation Nesta and some of the UK's leading tech entrepreneurs, Beam also has an ambassador - James Bowen, the author of multi-million copy selling A Street Cat Named Bob.
"Beam is a great way to help these people to get back on their feet and actually train in something they want to do," says Bowen, and looking at the stats it's hard to disagree.
Not a bad use of technology, or crowdfunding, eh?