Homelessness is a serious problem in the UK, with the number of families and adults experiencing homelessness increasing steadily year-on-year. The Salvation Army has several initiatives that support people experiencing homelessness and help them regain their confidence and get back on their feet. These initiatives cost money and while council funding is important, independent fundraising projects are even more so. So thanks are due to Olivia Schelts-Harris for all her efforts, particularly her decision to run the London Marathon to top off her fundraising mission.
Olivia, who is Head of Business Development and Tendering, is not the only Salvationist running on the 22nd of April on behalf the charity organisation. Matthew Smith, Service Manager at the Booth Centre, is going to join her on the road.
Funds go where they’re needed
Schelts-Harris and Smith are running the London Marathon specifically to raise funds for homelessness-related services. Shelts-Harris’s experiences with different Lifehouses in the UK have allowed her to see, first-hand, exactly where funds go.
Schelts-Harris said, “My first even tender for Homelessness Services was for the Booth Centre in Southampton. Since then I’ve been out and about visiting Lifehouses across the UK and been absolutely blown away by the incredible work they do to transform people’s lives. I wanted to contribute in some way to make a difference – particularly when the numbers of homeless families and adults is rising. It’s great to know all our funding from this year’s marathon will be going towards caring and accommodating those who are experiencing homelessness.”
Smith’s experience as a Lifehouse Service Manager makes him well positioned to see exactly where funds go, as well as the real difference the money makes to The Salvation Army’s Homelessness Services.
He said, “With the changes we’re seeing in the funding of supported housing, The Salvation Army is increasingly paying for more of the care services users need while they’re staying in Lifehouses. Things like enriching activities, occupation therapy and chaplaincy are the extra edge that we can provide services users with. On top of that, there are re-settlement costs and future support costs, all of which are paid for by donations. If we relied on council funding, it would be a very basic service.”
Smith adds, “I know 95p of every pound people donate to HSU goes towards supporting these things, so that’s a massive encouragement for me to do what I’m doing.”
A little encouragement goes a long way
Schelts-Harris has enjoyed the journey to the London Marathon. Not only does getting fitter have an appeal, but she’s also been encouraged by her colleagues at the THQ, which has kept her going through the bitter winter. As an added benefit, she feels she’s got to know the city better.
Smith has also been very encouraging; in fact, she says that they’ve been encouraging each other.
The runners will be supported on the big day by a handful of Salvation Army Homelessness service users who are going to London and cheer them on.
Smith hopes that the trip will give them a broader view of life and motivate them to try different experiences and encourage them to live independently of the homelessness services provided. Of course, they will still have access to The Salvation Army’s support services that help people who have moved out of the Lifehouses maintain their new, independent lives.
Olivia Schelts-Harris aims to reach the rather respectable target of £1950. She’s not relying solely on her London Marathon effort. She’s also held a car boot sale, cake sales and, generously, put up her wedding dress for sale.