As the country gears up for the start of the festive season and shoppers hit the streets for Black Friday bargains and gift ideas, Real Change Guildford is urging residents, visitors and businesses to help make a difference this year to those less fortunate.

Launched this summer, Real Change Guildford is a community initiative that provides practical solutions to help the homeless or those at risk of becoming homeless make steps to exit their life on the streets. The charity is funded by the very generous donations given by local businesses and the public, which then go towards empowering individuals in their time of need to make positive changes to their lives.

From funding a training course or a deposit for a home to providing a haircut or a new suit for that life-changing interview, Real Change identifies individuals in the borough that can benefit from their assistance and offers them a long-term, sustainable solution to help them get off the streets and back to life.

The Real Change Guildford campaign has been co-designed and co-produced in partnership with individuals who themselves have experienced homelessness firsthand, along with key partner organisations such as Guildford Action, Number Five Project and Catalyst to name just a few.

Since it’s launch in July, businesses, individuals and organisations have got behind Real Change Guildford, supporting its efforts with a number of successful fundraising initiatives and awareness-building campaigns. Key highlights include:

– Over £10k raised by members of the St Saviour’s Church congregation running the Guildford 10k.
– The John Rigg Trust donated £2k during a coordinated ‘sleepy flashmob’ awareness campaign that saw over 40 people lie down in the high street in support of World Homelessness Day.
– Experience Guildford’s Town Safety and Venue Liaison Manager, Peter Lambert climbed Mount Kilamanjaro and raised £170.
– Visitors to this year’s Guildford Christmas Lights switch-on raised over £400 as the events nominated charity.

All of the funds raised for Real Change Guildford go directly to the right people and the causes that need them, empowering the boroughs homeless to make the necessary changes to their lives through the assistance of partner charities. To access the funds, individuals must apply to one of the partner organisations who then work with them to administer and action their claim.

One such individual who has directly benefit from Real Change Guildford is Bob*. After spending some time in hospital recovering from a health problem, Bob was due to be discharged but, due to some complicated on-going issues accessing benefits, had no home to go to and had few options available to him to prevent a return back to the streets. Bob made an application to Real Change Guildford and received funding for emergency accommodation.

This funding gave him a roof over his head and a bed to sleep in as well as some much-needed respite and a chance for his support workers to investigate more longer-term options.

Bob is now well on his way to a full recovery and making positive steps towards a better life.

Commenting on the ongoing work of Real Change Guildford, Ketan Patel, area manager at Riverside Guildford, a not-for-profit organisation that aims to transform lives and revitalise neighbourhoods says;

“We have been blown away by the support and generous donations to Real Change Guildford, and it’s tremendous to already see the difference that these donations are making within our community. We can all make a difference to the lives of the homeless in our area, and this platform has enabled so many individuals and organisations to make a worthy contribution. As we approach Christmas, the season of giving, we urge residents, visitors and businesses within the borough to share a thought for the many homeless on our streets, and to work with us to help break the cycle of rough sleeping and them make the necessary step changes to start a new life.”

For more information on Real Change Guildford and how you can get involved to make a difference, plus to learn more about the full range of partner organisations that are committed to helping the homeless in Guildford, visit www.realchangeguildford.co.uk.

*we have changed Bob’s real name for his privacy.