Two London buses have been set up to help the city’s thousands of homeless people as winter approaches.
Driving For Change will offer free GP consultations, haircuts, dental treatment, digital and financial literacy training, and help open a bank account where appropriate.
Camel Ezel, the founder of Change Please, the cafe and social enterprise behind the idea, called it “the next step in tackling England’s homeless crisis”.
He hopes the buses can make the winter months easier for those without a place to stay, and that the idea can be used in other cities and countries.
He said: “We believe in sustainable approaches to end homelessness and Driving For Change will give the most vulnerable people the opportunity to access essential services that can guide them and help them change their lives for the long haul. term.
“We hope to take the project nationally and then internationally to achieve maximum impact – discussions around Paris and Los Angeles have already started.”
The number of people sleeping rough has increased over the past 18 months, with around 130,000 households homeless due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This despite some government interventions earlier in the pandemic – the ban on evictions, the increase in universal credit and the leave scheme.
Mr Ezel said: “We are now entering the cold months where you see the most deaths on the streets, so we really have to try to find people, working with local partners and local charities so that we can reach people as urgently as we can. “
Thomas Noble is one of those helped by Change Please.
Mr Noble arrived in the UK three years ago, after being deported from the US after a one-year prison term for drug trafficking.
He found himself alone in London with an addiction to narcotic pain relievers after a car accident.
He slept on the streets for about a month before discovering social enterprise and retraining as a barista.
The transition would have been easier if the buses had been available, he said, adding: “If you walk into a GP or something and you’re out on the street, people are going to look at you.
“It’s not a good feeling for anyone.
“They don’t want to feel that way, but they haven’t been lucky.
“There will be no judgment: you get on this bus and they have you.
“If that was there when I started, things would be even better than they are now.”
Mr. Noble has run out of painkillers and works five days a week at Change Please’s sister company, Spike + Earl.
He also works weekends for Change Please at Borough Market and Victoria Market in London. He earns a London living wage of £ 10.20 an hour, lives in an apartment, has paid time off and plans for the future.
“Your Starbucks Vanilla Frappuccino is always the same,” he added.
“But with Change Please, you actually have someone who appreciates the fact that you’ve stopped for coffee that’s going to be good. For me, it’s a win-win.”
Change Please is also working with Community Dental Services CIC to equip the bus with a mobile clinic where people can receive treatment.
Lorraine Mattis, Director of the organization, said: “We are delighted to be part of the Driving For Change initiative, which brings much-needed oral health care directly to the homeless building on our experience in mobile dentistry and supporting the oral health of vulnerable people.
“It’s fantastic to see social enterprises working together in an innovative way like this to directly address social needs.”