u-turn 25 birthday

Businesses receive a significant return on investment when partnering with organisations that assist people sleeping rough on the streets.

Driving into Cape Town, business owners and their employees might feel overwhelmed by the surge of homelessness after the pandemic. Homelessness is not good for business as crowded public spaces affect perceptions of safety and cleanliness as well as make customer access and client interactions difficult. High levels of homelessness also discourage international investment and dampen the crucial tourist market.

When companies partner with organisations like U-turn Homeless Ministries they reduce homelessness by assisting people that are sleeping rough on the streets.

U-turn has a phased programme that empowers people to overcome homelessness and is seeing great results. U-turn does not have a soup and blanket approach to homelessness. Homeless clients do not only receive basic welfare but also therapeutic support to come off the street.

When those sleeping rough on the streets are ready to change their lives they move to the rehabilitation phase. Their shelter fees and transportation are covered by U-turn.

On their journey to independent living, the clients move to the work-readiness phase and are named Champions to celebrate their achievements. U-turn run social enterprises that create sheltered employment to prepare Champions for future employment.

For example, Buildback is a construction, carpentry, maintenance, and upholstery company. Another, Living Roots, focuses on biodiversity through greening, endemic horticulture and corporate garden services. Connect Solutions, a Salesforce-accredited company, helps businesses and other NGOs design and implement management systems as well as monitoring and evaluation tools. Last year, thanks to Connect Solutions’ expertise, U-turn received an award for the best evidence of advanced monitoring and evaluation practices at the prestigious MTN Awards for social change.

All the sales assistants at U-turn’s charity shops are Champions. A few of the managers and team leaders are graduates of the programme. One of them is Bianca Rabbaney, who is the regional manager of six shops. U-turn’s charity shops cover the cost of the Champion’s accommodation, stipends, transport and personal development centre support.

At the centre, they receive life and computer skills, and have access to a social worker or occupational therapist. Through their life coach, the Champions are taught interview skills and how to write a CV.

For a few, it would be the first time to apply for work because they lived on the streets and may have been addicted to substances from a young age. When the Champions are employed, sober, and live independently, they graduate from the programme.

Reducing homelessness is possible and highly beneficial and there are many ways for individuals and companies to get involved.

U-turn is a B-BBEE qualifying small entity so when businesses contribute 1% of their revenue through monetary and in-kind contributions, they earn 5 points on their BBBEE scoring. As a Public Benefit Organisation, U-turn can, under certain circumstances, offer tax write-offs to businesses donating unsold or redundant inventory.

By utilising the services of U-turn’s social enterprises, businesses and individuals indirectly create pathways out of homelessness thereby receiving a social return on their investment in addition to the services procured.

Finally, the financial tax year ends on February 28 when businesses and private individuals have an opportunity to receive a tax deduction and reduce homelessness through monetary donations to U-turn. – Cathy Achilles, U-turn Homeless Ministries

Was originally published in the Cape Times on 23 January 2023

Photo: Pexels/ Timur Weber