Alex Stephany is a Jewish entrepreneur who has launched a crowdfunding platform — but with a difference.
Unlike other ventures which allow people to invest in companies, Mr Stephany’s platform, called Beam, gives people the opportunity to fund jobs training for homeless people, helping them into sustained employment.
“Homelessness has been something that has troubled me a lot, and it’s been getting worse”, Mr Stephany said, citing a report from the Shelter charity released earlier this month, which estimated that there are more than 300,000 homeless people in the UK.
Mr Stephany, a former CEO of the ParkatmyHouse app [now called JustPark], said the idea for Beam came after he had noticed there was a lack of “technology that makes it safe and easy to help a homeless person.
He said: “I began to think about what the best kind of help actually was.”
The 35-year-old, who grew up going to Finchley Reform Synagogue, was inspired by a lesson he remembered from childhood Hebrew classes. “One of the things that really stuck with me from Cheder was Maimonides’s eight degrees of charity, the highest level of which is the help that allows someone to no longer be in need of help.
“So for me the challenge was: how do we allow homeless people to get back into work, to become self-sustaining and then also help other people? And that’s very much what Beam is about, because once people go through this model and are in work, they pledge to repay their campaign donations for future Beam members. So I came up with this idea which mixed crowdfunding with employment training.”
Mr Stephany said the idea had been very well received by “senior people in homelessness charities.
“The website has been up for eight weeks. There are nine members on it so far.
“Four of the campaigns have been funded and of those four people, two have already passed their training and two are currently doing their training.
“It’s a very personalised approach. We sit down with the individual and get to know them. We obviously discuss their work history, their ambitions, and their strengths and we work out what the right career is for them.
“Sometimes an individual will know exactly what ithey want to do. At other times there’s a little bit more work to uncover what the right career path for them is.
“The thing all of these different pathways have in common is that training people up in high-demand skills is very likely to lead to sustained employment.
Details at www.wearebeam.org