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'Give the best of yourself, not the leftovers'

Words by Abi Scaife

Andrew Funk is an entrepreneur with a difference. Since experiencing homelessness himself, Andrew has strived to make a difference in the lives of other people who are currently unhoused.

“I moved to Spain in 2003 – From 2011-2016, I had … [an] organisation that connected investors and entrepreneurs,” explains Andrew. “It didn't go as well as planned once we raised our first round of investment. The business partners spent all the money on salaries in six months, of which I saw 1,200 euros and my first son was about to be born. So it went from the best moment to the worst moment. I ended up in a homeless situation in Barcelona because I preferred to be near my son without a stable roof over my head [than be in] in the States and be far away.”

Armed with 35,000 contacts, social media, and an entrepreneur’s spirit, Andrew was able to find a way to earn money and a place to live. 

“After that, I wanted to help other people. So first, I helped myself and then ever since I've been trying to figure out how to make sure that it's a model that can be scaled.”

That’s when Andrew created Homeless Entrepreneur - a nonprofit that helps people experiencing homelessness to connect with businesses, entrepreneurs, and those who are looking to hire. The aim is to use global connections to connect those in need with work, to provide them with the tools they need to get back on their feet.

“We have a funnel, if you will, in which we start with the Homeless Helpline,” explains Andrew. The Homeless Helpline is international; people use WhatsApp to send a message to or call Homeless Entrepreneur - either through their own phone or someone else's - explaining their situation. “After that, we provide possible resources in their location and we invite them to participate in the second programme which is called Voices.”

The aim of the Voices programme is to provide insight into the experiences of people experiencing homelessness or extreme poverty. Those taking part are able to tell their personal story, giving their first name, the city they’re living in, what their current situation is and what they’re looking for.

This could be temporary work to afford a ticket back home, longer-term work based on their skill set, or something else. The team at Homeless Entrepreneur share these videos with their community, to help them connect with their community and opportunities.

Here, Andrew gives the example of someone who benefited from the Voices programme; an Australian chef by the name of Tony Collins.

“I actually connected to him … at the World Economic Forum, I had met a professor from Hong Kong, who later put me in contact with Tony,” explains Andrew. “From there, he participated in the Voices programme. There was a nice journalist who wrote about his story and within hours he was off the street.”

“He started working on a yacht for 10 days, making 200 euros per day last week, so it's limited work, but he started getting some initial income. He was able to use that to pay off some of the debt that he generated while he was homeless.”

Homeless Entrepreneur is powered by the knowledge that everyone across the world is closely interconnected - if you’ve ever heard someone say that everyone is only five steps away from a celebrity, you’ll know what we mean.

But it begs the question - why, if we’re all so close to someone important, someone who is looking to hire, someone who has housing available, are so many people unwillingly unhoused?

That’s part of what Andrew is trying to change with Homeless Entrepreneur, because the very simple answer is that often, we don’t know how to utilise these connections. By growing a network of people who care, who want to help others into work, into accommodation, and out of poverty, Andrew is helping to make a lasting difference in people's lives.

Alongside the Homeless Helpline and Voices, there are other programmes run by Homeless Entrepreneur - like the HELP programme, which matches unhoused people with mentors, to help them find jobs and dignified housing.

“Our commitment is to empower 10,000 people out of poverty through their training,” says Andrew. “It's [about] creating community and understanding through improved knowledge, so we can recognise how to participate in positive change.”

“The best thing I could tell anyone that wants to support us via pro bono work or whatever they want to do, is give the best of yourself, not the leftovers.”

If you want to help support Homeless Entrepreneur, you can find out how on their website.

Charity check-in 

At Smiley Movement, we like to elevate the work of charities across the world. Here are three charities whose causes align with the themes in this article.

St Mungo’s. St Mungo's is a leading UK homelessness charity supporting over 3150 people every night. Help us end homelessness and rebuild lives. Support them here.

Centrepoint. This charity supports homeless young adults aged 16-25, and aims to end youth homelessness in the UK. Find out more here.

Emmaus. Emmaus is a UK based charity and community working together to end homelessness. Learn more here.

This article aligns with the UN SDG No Poverty.

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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