Yosef, a member supported by Crisis Skylight London, sat down to interview Alex de Winton about her longstanding support of Crisis and her interest in homelessness more broadly. Yosef is hoping to work in the media in the future and we are grateful to both Alex and Yosef for volunteering their time for this piece.
Here are some snippets of the conversation that ensued.
Yosef: How did you first hear about Crisis?
Alex: Most people in England will have heard about Crisis. I think it’s a really well-known charity because of Crisis at Christmas. People used to think about Crisis as Crisis at Christmas: a charity which supported people who were homeless at Christmas. I’ve always known about them because they’ve got quite a high profile in London, where I’m from.
Y: Why did you decide to give to homelessness?
A: About 10-15 years ago, my husband and I set up our own charitable fund. When you start giving, you give to things you feel strongly about, you are drawn to some things more than others. The first thing we were drawn to was education and equal opportunities, which lead us down a road to poverty and then what you realise is that you can’t help people with an education if they haven’t got anywhere to live. It is so basic. Through that, we were drawn to Crisis.
Living in London, you become very aware of rough sleeping and homelessness. There is such a fundamental need for housing in London. We came to Crisis, and met the Philanthropy Team. We were so impressed with the team, the holistic approach, to the campaigning, the changing the conversation. We felt we wanted to commit some long-term support to the charity.
Y: What do you think is the biggest misconception about homelessness?
A: I think it has got a lot better. Some people generally thought it was a choice. A lot of people thought it was very drug-related, or could be. There used to be an acceptance of rough sleepers.
Another misconception is: a lot of people still think of homelessness as rough sleeping.
Y: If you could tell someone who is experiencing homelessness one thing, what would it be?
A: The first thing I would ask them is if they have contacted Crisis. If they hadn’t, I would try and encourage them to engage with Crisis to help them.
"There is a whole conversation out there which has to be changed, and Crisis is doing that. Hopefully the pandemic might provide us with an opportunity to reset that conversation." - Alex
Y: What do you think people can do to play a part in ending homelessness?
A: I think Crisis are encouraging people to think about homelessness in a different way. Homelessness is unacceptable - it should be unacceptable – and Crisis are helping us to see that.
There are lots of things people can do to play a part in ending homelessness: they can write to their MP; they can stop protesting when someone tries to open a hostel next to their house. We all have to take on responsibility of this situation.
I have learned a lot since engaging with Crisis. There is a whole conversation out there which has to be changed, and Crisis is doing that. Hopefully the pandemic might provide us with an opportunity to reset that conversation.
Y: What do you hope to accomplish through your philanthropy?
A: You might not be able to solve the housing problem, or homelessness, or child poverty but you have to focus on the difference you can make in the world. If you can target your giving well, choose your organization, put your money in the hands of people you can trust, then you can make a difference.
It is quite easy to feel overwhelmed sometimes. I am involved with quite a number of organisations, and there is need everywhere.
What all of us want to do is to make a difference.
Y: Finally, what would be your advice for anyone thinking of giving to Crisis?
A: Crisis will make your money work. They will put your money to good use. It’s such a well-run charity, it’s so well thought out. The tail is not wagging the dog. At the centre of Crisis is its user group, is people. It’s a big organization but it has people at the heart of it.
We're so grateful to Alex and the de Wintons for their determination to end homelessness.
If you have any questions about this interview or are interested in how you can play a part, please get in touch with the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.