“Even if you’re hard working, you don’t need to be a lazy person, or something like that, to be homeless. It can happen, you know? But also, if it does happen, it’s not the end of the world, there are ways to get out of it, too.”
Those are the words of Peter, a talented pastry chef with a promising career, who had previously studied law. Peter found it hard to cope with his autism without any support, which led to drug addiction, the downfall of his career and eventually, homelessness. His story of is just one of many that are being shared through a project by social enterprise, Stories for Change.
After witnessing the increasing homelessness being experienced in his home town, Stories for Change co-founder Glenn Cooper proposed his Humans of New York-inspired idea to his now-business partner and Stories for Change Director, David Graham.
“Glenn knows I love a good challenge, so he came to me with an idea around telling the stories of people who are homeless,” he says. “Together with my good friend, the incredibly talented photo journalist Hazel Thompson and the brilliant camera operator/sound operator Mark Keshishian, we got to work partnering with small charities and capturing powerful stories that had an instant impact.”
The first project in the series – Homeless Stories – was conceived to humanise and raise awareness of the homelessness epidemic, by giving individuals affected by homelessness a platform on which to tell their own stories and provide an honest account of the support they have received from local charities.
Stories for Change works directly with small charities to connect with and safeguard the individuals interviewed in the video series. Their stories are powerful, often heartbreaking, yet always communicated with an overarching feeling of hope – that positive change can, and does, happen.
For David, it is hearing the stories of the younger people who find themselves homeless that impacts him the most.
“There are many stories from this project that have stuck with me, but it is the young people – those are the stories that always hit me hard emotionally. I find it difficult to comprehend how they can be so neglected, mistreated and forgotten about that they end up homeless,” he says.
“I have young kids and I can’t possibly imagine ever letting them be in that situation. I’m sure that’s easy for me to say as I’m very fortunate compared to many others, but it doesn’t stop my heart from breaking every time we meet a young person who has experienced homelessness in some form.”
By shining a light on the great work these local charities are doing, we aim to help raise awareness and also raise funds through donations. Each video interview will allow the individual to tell their personal story and provide an honest account of how the local charity has offered support, hopefully delivering a positive message and showing that there is a potential solution with the support of local communities.
Glenn Cooper, Co-founder, Stories for Change
Having initially launched their project as Homeless Stories, Glenn and David quickly realised that their overall concept needed to be broader; and so Stories for Change was born, instantly widening the net for the topics that could be uncovered, communicated, and brought to the fore by the initiative.
“Once we realised how much of an impact we were having, we knew that we had to cover more than just homelessness. We have recently released our first food poverty story, we have stories coming out soon about the refugee crisis and will hopefully be covering many more issues moving forwards. There are so many issues we want to cover, including gambling addiction, obesity, mental health, child poverty, and modern slavery to name a few,” says David.
The importance of [smart] storytelling
We live in a world where anyone who has a Twitter account and an opinion can be a pseudo-publisher. Although in some ways, that has given more people a platform to speak and share ideas, it has also made that platform so cluttered that often the most important messages have to fight hard to get through, or get completely lost amongst all the noise.
Glenn and David met working together in the music industry at Island Records (Universal Music). Although David left the company in 2007, going on to run an independent creative production agency, the pair stayed good friends and when Glenn came to David with the idea for Stories for Change, it seems like the perfect opportunity to put their combined marketing, business and creative experience to good use, to engage audiences through emotive story-telling, and take a different approach to raising awareness of some of humanities most prolific and complex social issues and challenges.
“Stories for Change is something we do alongside everything else we do. In the short term, we hope to keep on capturing powerful stories, to shine a light on the work small charities do in their communities and help raise awareness of the issues we cover. Long-term, we want Stories for Change to become a global organisation that covers multiple issues and captures stories all over the world, helping small charities along the way. We want to build a compassionate and loyal community online,” says David.
Our long-term dream is to have the organisation staffed by the very people whose stories we tell, so it goes full circle, we offer them employment and they help us tell the stories of people who are in the position they once were.
David Graham, Director, Stories for Change
David hopes the projects developed via Stories for Change will help people and corporations to realise that these real life issues are much closer to home than they might think.
“We would love the world to be made more aware of issues that perhaps they knew existed, but maybe didn’t understand or think had any effect on their lives. We also want to meet and develop relationships with potential funding partners. We work with Lloyds Foundation for our Homeless Stories project and it’s vital we talk to more funding partners to help us grow as an organisation.”
The next chapter
With a multitude of topics on the horizon to cover and big plans in the pipeline, David hopes the work done by Stories for Change will challenge perceptions, raise awareness, ignite conversation and inspire change.
“We are currently working on concepts that involve us capturing stories in different ways, to keep the platform fresh and engaging. There are so many directions we could go in creatively, what we’ve done so far really has only scratched the surface, the scope is massive and exciting,” says David.
I would encourage everyone to go out there and do something with purpose, volunteer for a local charity, start a social enterprise, anything, large or small, just do it. It can be really simple. Working on Stories for Change has changed my life and your contribution to your community, whatever it may be, can do the same, doing good things for others spreads positivity and leads to a more compassionate and caring world, we all need that right now.
David Graham, Director, Stories for Change
And what about Peter. How did his story end?
After a month sleeping in his car, Peter found help from The Hope Centre, one of the incredible small charities put in the spotlight by Stories for Change. The Hope Centre supported and continues to support Peter on his journey to recovery. Now on the way to opening his own business doing what he loves – baking beautiful cakes – you could say that Peter’s story is actually only just beginning.
Homeless Stories is a video project featuring first person accounts of men and women affected by homelessness. You can hear and see their stories at homelessstories.co.uk. It is part of Stories for Change, a social enterprise with the aim of having a positive impact on multiple human issues globally. To find out more go to storiesforchange.org.uk