Simon on The Streets – A First Virtual Networking Event

The pandemic has been tough for us all, but for the homeless community and those who are vulnerable in our region, it has led to more uncertainty than ever. 

Simon on the Streets is an independent charity based in West Yorkshire that delivers outreach to the homeless and those who are vulnerable in Leeds and surrounding areas. This week, I attended the charity’s first virtual 5 for 5 networking event, when the work they have been doing during lockdown was discussed, and their latest updates and plans for the future were shared.

5 for 5 partnerships 

Simon on the Streets have developed a ‘5 for 5 corporate partnership scheme’, whereby corporations, predominantly from the Yorkshire region, commit to donate £500 per year for 5 years to the charity. This commitment helps to ensure the charity has a sustainable income to conduct their vital work, but also offers benefits to the corporations. These benefits include networking opportunities, promotion via the Simon on the Streets social media platforms and fulfilment of social responsibility objectives. 

Virtual networking event

Networking events are a core part of the 5 for 5 scheme, but when the pandemic hit, the face to face events were put on hold. However, this week, Simon on the Streets held their first virtual event via Google Teams. The event, which lasted an hour, was open to the Simon on the Streets corporate partners and other businesses and charities interested in their work.

The networking event gave Simon on the Streets the opportunity to share how they have been working throughout the pandemic to support the homeless community and those that are vulnerable in Leeds, Bradford and Kirklees. During the event, Simon on the Streets also discussed how the pandemic has effected change, and what these changes mean for the future of the charity and the people that they support. 

Introductions 

At the start of the event we all introduced ourselves and explained how the pandemic has affected us and our various businesses. It was eye opening to hear how social distancing and working from home have made it more challenging for businesses to support charities like Simon on the Streets. For instance, many of the corporations normally hold bake sales, sporting events and dress down days, but these stopped at the end of March when we were all instructed to work remotely. As a result, much of the income that Simon on the Streets normally receives also stopped.

The challenges of fundraising were discussed and some ideas for how corporations can continue to support charities like Simon on the Streets were considered. One of the interesting ideas was setting up a fundraising competition between corporations, which could involve employees doing sponsored runs or developing an employee weekly pledge. 

Updates from Simon on the Streets 

The charity explained that as a result of job losses and social isolation increases, the pandemic has seen a rise in homelessness in the region. Whilst Simon on the Streets has continued to work tirelessly to support the most vulnerable in the community, the fundraising constraints have taken their toll. For instance, it was highlighted how their key events, such as their Big Sleep Out, were cancelled owing to social distancing regulations. 

But Simon on the Streets also explained that the pandemic has given them the push to be more creative. One of the events that they held during lockdown was a Big Sleep In, which saw almost 100 people raising money by sleeping outside in their back gardens. Simon on the Streets explained that, as an independent charity, all of those who took part in this event, and the other smaller fundraising activities, helped the charity to continue to support the vulnerable, despite the challenges of recent months. 

Moving forward, Simon on the Streets is hoping to hold other events like their Big Sleep In and are confident that some of their most well-known events like their Annual Ball will go ahead. But, in the meantime, the charity also asked the corporations to host their own events and to encourage their employees, friends and families to dig deep to support the homeless in West Yorkshire. 

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