Yoga Beyond Asana: The Homeless Entrepreneur

 

I spoke with Andrew from #HomelessEntrepreneur, a not – for profit organisation that works with people from the homeless community to offer them support and guidance in getting back to the world of work and entrepreneurship.

Can you tell us a bit about the project #HomelessEntrepreneur and what it is exactly?

So, #HomelessEntrepreneur is basically an association that helps homeless people who want to tell their story and to get off the street by working. We give them an opportunity to do this and bring in people who want to participate in the project – by either offering their time, money cartier double bracelet
or network- to help those without a home to be exposed to opportunities which may help them to get off the street.

We currently have projects running in Madrid, Tarragona, Reus, Barcelona, Pakistan and Nepal.

What we do is bring people that care together and offer them the opportunity to add value, while doing something that they love, and the result of that love is being able to help somebody else to get back on their feet.

Where did the inspiration come for this project? 

I started this two years ago, in June 2015 after I became very close to living on the street myself. I have also been working with people for a long time in relation to personal and professional development and I figured if I could help homeless people to get back on their feet, then I could have a model that would be able to help anybody. It can be easier to focus on homelessness than focusing on global unemployment – it is a smaller number and it is actually something that you can solve.

I just wanted to help one person and I realised how difficult that is, and it has evolved ever since – just wanting to create better solutions and opportunities as well as getting the community involved. We now have a big community, I have more than 75,000 people in our social media and we have more than one million views each month online.

We are always finding ways and projects to get people involved and that also helps improve communication between homeless and people who have homes.

How did you originally go about setting this project up? 

Firstly, I spent 24 hours on the street myself and recorded that. The first twelve hours were begging for money, which is quite difficult when you don’t know how to do that and the second twelve hours were spent asking people for help.

Nobody really knew what to do or how to offer me help to get off the street.

In December 2015 I started to ask large associations for help, as that seemed to make sense, before I soon realised that none of them were going to help me. I then ran into Marcos Hernandez, who actually published the book Poemas Sin Techo, which means Homeless Poems, a year later with us, and I invited him to join the programme. He was probably one of the most difficult people I could have chosen because he has had a lot of things happen in his life. There fake cartier bracelets
are different levels of homelessness, Marcos had been living on the streets for seven years and they say that for every day that you are living on the street you need one day to get out – so you can imagine after seven years the level of institutionalization.

I worked with him for about a year and we got a lot of work done, but at the end of the day they all have to make some life changing decisions and until they make them on their own, they won’t be able to adapt to the new lifestyle.

Basically, what we are trying to do is figure out how to help people one person at a time. We are not trying to end homelessness in one day. We find people who have some affinity with those who we work with and let them try to help.  I meet with the volunteers when necessary to ensure everything is going well, that they are advancing and to also create a community that wants to help, but also helping those who want to be helped – if a homeless person does not want to be helped, it is next cartier bracelet love price
to impossible to do anything.

 

How do you find the people from the homeless community who become part of the project?

It is really simple, everyday when I see someone begging, I just stop and say hi, ask them what their name is and if they want to get off the street – just having a conversation like I would with any other person. The people that normally enter the program are attracted to us by what we do in the community.

I actually spend five percent of the year sleeping in the street myself. We do an event called #EverybodySleepingInTheStreet – which includes conferences and we pay homeless people to give a speech where they tell their story in ten minutes. It is all about communicating with people with and without housing.

We help people who are in a program, as opposed to randomly helping people because you would never get anything concrete done. We can only help people who want to share their story, who are willing to put their face out there as you can’t expect society or citizens to help if they don’t. We are in constant communication with homeless people, interviewing those who wish to participate in the project – they are like any other person, they just sleep in the street and have a harder life in that regard.

 

What have the main challenges been with this project and the work that you do?

The biggest challenge is that the homeless community that we work with, are not used to working as a team. Two other challenges are mental health and drug addictions. We no longer work with people who have drug addictions. If they have drug addictions we invite them to work with professionals who do a great job in that field – when they get clean then we can help them, but you can’t help someone who is under the influence of certain substances that do not let them advance.

For mental health issues, they have support such as psychologists and coaches and things like yoga to help them with meditation and breathing and their inner well-being. It is just figuring out what problems they have, what gaps they have in their life and trying to fill them and help them to smile a bit more.

 

Is the level of alcohol and drug abuse quite high on the streets?

It depends – I was surprised at the amount of heroin users right now, it is not as bad as in the eighties but it is pretty bad. Alcohol is the biggest killer and I think it is actually one of the only substances that can kill you if you stop using it cold turkey. Beer, for me, is the most frustrating one and the others that you hear of are cocaine and heroin. Those are the main things – marijuana is not even considered a drug for people on the street, it is considered the same as a cigarette.

 

Do you have people within the organisation who work with these issues, or are they outside of the project?

We have coaches and psychologists who participate. Everybody has some sort of mental health issue, the problem is whether that issue affects their life or the progress that they need to get back on their feet and have a “normal life”. So we just introduce them to the people and entities that can help them with mental health.

The main pillars that we focus on are; talent and stable work, and education for both and health – mental and physical. We have an agreement with a gym which they can use to exercise and also we offer education in the areas of legal, financial and housing.

There is a lot of work to be done.

 

How do you ‘find’ their talent or the business that they wish to create?

We ask them what their talent is and then when they respond we put them in the spotlight. We give them the tools and the resources so that they can perform their work. Andrez, for example, had a monthly massage therapy workshop and he had to give massages – if people are happy then he continues, if they are not happy then he has to improve. We also have an English teacher, Vincent, and a web developer, Paco, – who actually got a full-time job four months ago and earns €1200 a month and donates 10% of what he makes for the first six months to #HomelessEntrepreneur. His donations are being focused on helping others in the program as well as creating a rap CD, since he is also a rapper.

It is all about creating and then teaching them how to maintain what they do by themselves.

 

How is that process, it must be a rewarding to see the process and the growth but also very challenging?

You can see who, within the program, has graduated, who has just entered and who is not in the program – there is a very clear distinction because there is a commitment involved that just does not exist on the street.

For example, when we have to be at an event early, say 8am- you can’t even get most people who have homes to wake up at that time on a Sunday morning for an event, so getting someone who slept in a park to wake up early shows their commitment.

 

Are people – businesses, the general public- aware of #HomelessEntrepreneur?

Yes, everyday there are more and more people involved. We closed a deal with a coffee shop called Costarrica, who will increase the price of their coffee by five cents and that will mean that approximately €1200 a month will be donated by them to the project which will support two people in the program in Tarragona. We need approximately €600 a month for one year to help one person in the program to get off the street and we do that by providing all of the support that they need. The local team can get paid through this funding but they also have the option to reinvest into the program, to not accept the payment and to use the money to support future people in the project.

We believe that when we are able to, we should pay but to also give them the option to reinvest if they wish to. Public and private companies are showing more interest, we closed an agreement with the Universitat Rovira i Virgili in Tarragona. The more we work on the project, the more we get people who want to help or work with us and also the more we get people contacting us through word of mouth from our volunteers – which means we must be doing something right.

 

How do the other projects – such as in Pakistan or Nepal – get set up? 

They are normally individuals or organisations who have been working with homeless people but who haven’t had the same focus that we are providing. We provide a stronger network, more solutions – we have weekly meetings and then we have a global meeting where we get everyone from around the various continents together to speak about how we can improve the current situations that they are providing or working on.

If anybody wants to get involved they can. If somebody wants to be a local angel or ambassador – they just contact us and they commit to making something in their area happen. If someone has that level of commitment, then we are more than happy to open an embassy in their city, but there has to be certain level of commitment as you can’t play with people’s lives.

 

Is this your full-time work? 

I spend twelve hours a day working on this – including the weekends- except for Saturday mornings, which I spend with my son. I also teach English, I am a digital consultant and a translator.

My main focus is #HomelessEntrepreneur, but everything else I do is on a professional level. I take my work very seriously but I am focusing on creating a community and a project that will be able to give me a normal salary and I plan to make enough so that I can employ other people.

In a year and a half, we are already in 3 countries. Right now, one of the main focuses is the legal structure, the organisational structure and the process to make sure that we are going in the right direction and that we have our stamp behind what we do with professionalism and more than anything -results.

Do you have a specific location where you work from? 

We say that we won’t have a roof over out head until all of the homeless people in our city do, so we just meet in different places around the city – but it is not necessary to have an office. I would prefer to use that money to help the people in the project get back on their feet professionally.

We believe that it is important to help them use the money to create and find work and to find housing. We see housing as a consequence, it is extremely important but if there is no responsibility replica cartier love bracelet along with that then you are just giving people a hand-out. We are trying to help the people in the program to become active citizens and the result is that they are happier and improving their lives.

It is not magic and you can’t change their life in one day, but it can happen quite quickly and it depends how ready they are.

 

What is the number of homeless in Barcelona?

The official count is 1026 sleeping rough – which is wrong. We slept in the street and there were people who were not homeless who had been counted. It is an approximate number and there are approximately 3000 that are homeless in Barcelona.

I don’t know if you can really say whether or not there are more or less homeless people now than before- all I can say is that there are people on the street who want to get off it and those who don’t. When I say that they want to, I mean that they are willing to make an effort to get off the streets and there are those who can’t be convinced to change their habits at the current time.

We focus on those who want to make an effort: I am not a babysitter – if I have to choose between spending time with my son or a person who doesn’t really care about what I am trying to help them do, I think my decision is quite clear.

 

How many people are working with #HomelessEntrepreneur?

We have quite a lot of people who are working and volunteering within the project. It’s difficult to define due to the number of agreements we have.

For those who are just volunteering, you can’t ask for more than one hour per week and if they are volunteering, they normally just want to help and you can’t ask for too much of their time, as it is valuable.

More and more people are wanting to get involved and wanting to help. We are trying interesting ways to get companies involved and adding value, there has to be some sort of transaction involved – we are not begging.

There is a local team who work within the company and who are constantly trying to think of ways to improve the project. We are getting more and more people involved and the result is that the process is speeding up.

 

How can people help #HomelessEntrepreneur?

If people want to help they can do so in a few ways – obviously economic donations are extremely important, if they want to volunteer they can suggest anything they would like to do – as long as it is not offering food and clothing. This is not what we do in the project and I don’t think it helps people to get off the street as there is not a lack of food and there are not people walking around the street naked.

Anybody who wants to share their talent to either help the #HomelessEntrepreneur grow or to help within the association – anywhere from SEO experts to lawyers, doctors, project managers or anyone who wants to help are welcome, by focusing on helping either one person who is part of the program or by helping the organisation grow. Just get in contact with us.

 

Anything else you want to say?

I appreciate the opportunity to speak with you. I think meditation- be it yoga, walking meditation, breathing habits- is extremely important for homeless people as it is a way of reducing stress.

First of all – stress kills, poverty kills – so being poor and stressed kills a lot faster. I think there is a lot of value in this and anyone from the yoga community who would ever like to work with us are very welcome. The people we work with are active members, they don’t wait around for people to give free donations because I don’t let that happen.

If somebody wants to ask for something. they have to work for it, and that is extremely important. The more people that know about what we are doing, the better- so opportunities to present or to speak about it, to show their talent, to show their work, to move money- are all extremely helpful.