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Shining shoes in London offers escape from homelessness

Page history last edited by Rosemary 8 years, 11 months ago

StreetShine is an exciting new social enterprise in the British capital that gives people who have experienced homelessness but are rebuilding their lives the chance to earn a regular income by operating an office-based shoeshine service. Host companies, which include banks, accountants and law firms within the City of London, allow shiners "desk-to-desk" access on a stipulated day of the week.

Customers pay £3.75 for the service, which is offered desk-to-desk with shoes shined ‘on the foot', so customers can continue to work. StreetShine uses non-toxic, premium quality products and also provides shoe repairs and accessories as well.

From two shiners at financial services consultants KPMG in 2004, the service has now expanded to 23 companies hosting eight shiners (five full-time), usually for one day a week. StreetShine's first hotel site has a permanent shoe shine point five days a week and there are plans to expand outside the capital - Leeds, Manchester and Edinburgh are favoured - and into airports and train stations.

Shiners receive training, a regular full-time income, a bank account, and help with benefits and housing issues, improving their confidence, skills and self-esteem in the process. The training covers the craft of shoe shining, from specialist leather care and product use to repairs, and customer service and team building. Most shiners begin by working part time; as they gain self-confidence and work skills, they can progress to full-time employment or if they want it, their own franchise.

Entrepreneur Nick Grant came up with the StreetShine idea after doing the soup run in Victoria and realising how easy it was to become homeless and how difficult it was to break out of homelessness. Having seen how popular shoe shining was in the United States, he felt StreetShine could give homeless people an opportunity to learn a skill and get back into regular employment. StreetShine, established as a social enterprise in March 2004, is backed by A Glimmer of Hope Foundation and is a subsidiary of Thames Reach Bondway, one of UK’s leading homelessness charity. All profits go back into the company to provide training and support for more shiners, who are referred by participating homeless organizations.

StreetShine is one of a number of initiatives in Britain between homelessness agencies and business. Homeless Link, the umbrella body for homelessness agencies, wants government to deliver more support for voluntary-sector led initiatives to move people living in hostels and currently out of work back to the labour market. It argues that emotional support and soft skills are areas that Jobcentre Plus cannot provide.

Simon Fenton-Jones, StreetShine’s chief executive (and a student of the innovative School for Social Entrepreneurs) believes the service element has been crucial to success. "Shoe shining is a traditional craft that, like many others, has gone out of fashion," he says. "This is about giving people a business opportunity and moving on from charity. We're providing a job and real skills, not just a two-week work placement."

StreetShine, 2nd Floor, 35-43 Bondway, London, England SW8 1SJ

Adapted from information provided on the Street Shine website and an article entitled “Unemployment gets the boot” by Liza Ramrayka published in The Guardian January 18, 2006.


For other stories about homelessness and the homeless, see:

Canadian website brings gifts to city's homeless

Young girl's Ladybug Foundation brings hope, support to Canada's homeless

Homeless World Cup changes lives, attitudes about homelessness

Childrens' bank turns street children into entrepreneurs

Volunteers build home for South African AIDS orphan family

Women 'light the dark' for their families and communities

Irish volunteers build brick houses for homeless South Africans

Australian teacher creates a solution for those who sleep on the street

Maoris share land so homeless can garden for food bank

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