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Homelessness challenge to find innovative solutions launches at Future Business Centre Cambridge Central

Local homeless charities came together with impact entrepreneurs and engaged residents as part of a facilitated challenge weekend to explore the growing problem of homelessness in Cambridge city

Part of a wider programme of activity exploring some of the key community challenges for the City and bringing together a community of people passionate about social innovation and community transformation, it marked the launch of Allia’s Future Business Centre Cambridge Central. The creation of a new space which will provide space and support for the creation and development of emerging ideas forms part of the larger site which is home to social enterprises engaged in health and wellbeing.

An independent not for profit with a social mission, Allia is dedicated to helping impact organisations and initiatives to grow through workspace, business support and social finance. Allia already run the successful FBC Cambridge on Kings Hedges Road but the refresh of their site at Norfolk Street will provide a home for the development of initiatives specifically focused on addressing some of Cambridge city’s key challenges.

The challenge weekend, which was generously supported by Cambridge City Council, started with homeless charities Emmaus and Wintercomfort outlining the very real issues faced by the front line support organisations but also for the users of their services. Neil Prem, Allia’s Head of Enterprise Engagement, then worked with the group over 2 days to create and share ideas and develop possible concepts.

Initiatives emerging ranged from Must Eat and coffee voucher schemes which could be bought from retailers and exchanged for food and hot and cold drinks, to pop up events for homeless women which could enable them to feel fresh and clean by providing access to hairdressers, sanitary products and dentists. Allia’s Serious Impact programme will now support some of these initiatives to testing and implementation stage.

Neil Prem, Allia’s Head of Enterprise Engagement said: “We are delighted to bring our Norfolk Street space under the Future Business Centre umbrella and having this dedicated space to explore community issues. We had so many people involved in this first challenge to tackle some of the problems faced by homeless people – watch this space to see some of their exciting ideas being trialled in the city over the next few months.”

One of the attendees was Jacob Lewis, a second year law student at University of Cambridge who found himself homeless during his final school years. He said “having lived with other homeless people and been helped by them it makes me want to do something to help. If we can take care of people’s most basic needs it really does make dealing with everything else so much easier.”

Over the coming year there will be a number of further challenge weekends at Future Business Centre Cambridge Central to bring together entrepreneurs and the wider community to encourage discussion and debate and look at some of the potential solutiuons to other pressing social issues affecting people in Cambridge.

To find out more visit Allia’s Serious Impact website for details of future challenge weekends and programmes.

* According to DCLG homelessness in Cambridge grew by 122% between 2015-16*