From start-up to scale-up: how a small Habs’ grant has been a game-changer

For the second year running, the Haberdashers’ Company has supported innovative charity Street Storage with a small grant. Director for Charities, Susan Barry, went to see what the impact of the grant was for founder and director, Rachel Woolf.

I must have passed the sight hundreds of times, yet never actually seen it. On my way home from visiting the charity Street Storage I spotted a man by a shop front, perched, on two, large suitcases. He was clearly living on the streets and in those cases were his worldly goods.

In that moment it was made clear to me why the need for the service that Street Storage provides is so great. If the person who experiences homelessness is constantly dragging around their possessions, how can they attend a job interview? Their next shift at their workplace? Make a journey to see loved ones? 

Sadly, it required my visit to Street Storage to really make me stop and think about the simple logistics that are involved in the business of living for those on the streets. In the words of Rachel Woolf, Street Storage’s founder, ‘while it’s hardly exciting or sexy it’s absolutely fundamental to being able to help those who experience homelessness’. 

 

A simple and neat solution

Street Storage has heard all the stories: people’s belongings being stolen, vandalised, even urinated on. But Rachel’s idea for the solution to this is simple and neat. To provide a safe, secure, trusted space where people can leave their belongings for as long as they need. Some store precious and valuable items such as photos and important papers. Others require a handful of crates and a space on the industrial shelves. 

 

The need is clear

Street Storage’s story began in February 2019 with a small, borrowed room. In four days it was filled with twenty people’s belongings. They moved to a larger space in a church basement but that was filled in just 2 months with 80 people’s belongings. In their new space in Haggerston, east London, they have capacity for around 250 people’s belongings. 

 

From start-up to scale-up

The Haberdashers’ Company has been supporting Street Storage for two years, through its Small Grants programme. These are not significant sums of money (the maximum grant is £2,000) but Rachel is adamant that the Company has been a game-changer for the charity: ‘we couldn’t do anything without those two grants, seriously’. 

Before our involvement the organisation was using paper forms and excel spreadsheets to do everything from budgeting and accounting to storing client and donor information. Thanks to the funds from the Company they now have funds to pay for their QuickBooks accounting system, Salesforce CRM, monthly website costs, PAYE systems and a phone system. Rachel says, ‘it has enabled us to go from start-up to scale-up’.

 

What success might look like

Rachel mused on the idea of what success looks like to Street Storage. It might be easy to imagine a linear journey where – because of the storage facility they provide – a person might attend a job interview and secure that role, and in time find their way to permanent housing. 

But life is not linear for any of us, especially if you live in the precarious position of calling the streets your home, with few safety nets. It may be the case that a Street Storage client finds a home, but that doesn’t eliminate the chance of them returning to the streets over time. 

Instead Rachel defines success as helping their clients achieve their individual goals, whatever those goals might be.  

 

Meeting the need across the UK

In terms of the organisation’s own goals, Rachel hopes to secure a further London location in the latter part of 2021. But given the complicated web of issues surrounding homelessness and routes out of it (especially as the knock-on effects of the pandemic reveal themselves) Rachel says, ‘our aim is to establish this model in all towns and cities - and there are a lot of cities! - in 10 years, but preferably in 5’. 

In the hands of this smart, lively and competent young woman we can be confident that Street Storage will soon be meeting the needs of those who experience homelessness far beyond the streets of London. 

 

To find out more about their work visit www.streetstorage.org. To find out more about the Company’s Small Grants programme contact Susan Barry on susan@haberdashers.co.uk or 020 7246 9985. 

 Above: boxes of people's possessions, including Cvitan's
 

 Above: Street Storage's founder Rachel Woolf
 

The possessions of Street Storage clients Above: former client and now Street Storage’s security guard, Michal