After two months of running our vendor programme, we have made the difficult decision to close it. Despite the wonderful reaction TAP received from the public, and the social good achieved, we are confident that this is the right decision.
WHY WE'VE CLOSED IT
The barrier that proved insurmountable was recruitment.
Initially, we relied on our own street outreach to make hires; meeting people at soup kitchens, on the streets and receiving referrals from other concerned Londoners. We made 6 hires through this method, but it was time-consuming and difficult to find individuals who were work ready.
During this period we contacted every charity - both large and small - with a homeless employment service in London, attended recruitment days and met with employee advisors. Via this avenue, we received just three referrals, of which one candidate was placed.
We have no doubt that TAP provided great benefit to the individuals that we did employ. Coming to work everyday provided structure, purpose and a sense of community which had demonstrable impact on our vendors confidence and well-being. Unfortunately, this was not enough to overcome the complex issues that they were facing in their personal lives.
Ultimately, of the 7 we recruited, we lost 4 after 3-7 weeks. For some this was due to drug dependency, and for others the job simply wasn't right for them at that time. Without a surplus of suitable individuals waiting to work with TAP, the loss of 4 vital members of the team was impossible to overcome.
We believe that the vending model could be a success in the future - it was certainly received well by the public. But we need partnership to create a sustainable employment opportunity for those with complex needs, and we need a steady flow of suitable employees. Despite our best efforts, we were unable to do that this time.
- TAP employed 7 individuals in crisis to work as vendors;
- TAP offered over 400 hours of work at the London Living Wage;
- Improved confidence and skill set due to sales training and support;
- Raised over £1,000 for New Horizon Youth Centre;
- Fantastic public perception: Proven the profitability of contactless as a means of tackling homelessness, with over 1,000 individuals buying TAP cards. People bought into the product - particularly collectability - with people seeking out vendors to buy the latest TAP cards.
WHAT LIES AHEAD
Homelessness remains a visible and painful issue in cities. The public - affected and unsure of what to do - often give to beggars. This is a damaging cycle, as it funds illegal activities and addiction. Over 80% of beggars in London are begging in order to feed an addiction (Thames Reach, 2015).
Contactless giving can enable this generosity to be put to better use, and create sustainable impact. We still firmly believe that contactless giving should be a feature in all smart cities, and believe we are uniquely placed to implement this.
So, bruised but not defeated, we will have exciting updates to share in the weeks and months ahead.
We'd like to take this opportunity to thank you all for supporting the TAP journey.
The work we have carried out so far has been hugely valuable, both in terms of the lives we touched for a short while, and in enabling us to innovate and apply new technologies to charitable causes.
Whilst homelessness exists in cities populated by generous people with dwindling cash usage, we believe that TAP can connect the dots to create community driven change. Other organisations are starting to believe us too, and we are hopeful that whilst we may not be there quite yet, we aren’t too far away.