Changing Lives

The Changing Lives grants help people experiencing homelessness to progress into education, employment and to start up small businesses in a range of industries. With grants ranging from £250 to £5,000, we support around 70 Crisis members each year to access the tools and equipment, start training and pursue qualifications needed to achieve their ambition.

Changing Lives began in 2002 as an innovative programme that empowered people with lived experience of homelessness to build confidence and take greater control of their futures. As we approach our 20th year, the programme has supported over 3,500 people to take steps to leave homelessness behind for good.

Below are stories from two inspiring artists that we have supported in the last 12 months.

If you are a Crisis member and are interested in applying for a Changing Lives Grant, please contact your Coach or Lead Worker, or you can email Lloyd.francis@crisis.org.uk the Changing Lives Grant Co-ordinator.

Laura's story

Laura studied Fine Art at university, but when her mum died, she used alcohol to escape her grief.

Homeless for months and unable to get support, she got into a very dark place. But thanks to a Changing Lives grant from Crisis, she’s now a self-employed illustrator and full of hope.

“My mum was my best friend and I was devastated when she died. If you can’t get help for mental health problems, you find other ways to escape what’s going on inside you. I became addicted to alcohol and went to a really bad place.

I was homeless for months, staying on people’s sofas, which made me feel incredibly anxious. With no support to help me, there was a lot of worry about what the next day would bring."

When Laura went into rehab, she finally received the counseling she needed to help with her anxiety, depression, and grief. She moved into a dry house for women and started doing Crisis courses.

“I picked up a pencil and drew a field and a fence, and doing that simple task was so powerful. It was such a big moment because I felt my brain come back! It was magical. Art helped me express myself.

Coming to Crisis was the best thing that could have happened. I’ve done courses on everything from mental health to finances, while also having art mentoring, I’m like a sponge with the experts’ advice.

My coaches have been incredible, providing one-to-one support with everything from universal credit, to finding a flat just before the start of the pandemic.

My home is in a peaceful rural area, so I can create from here. It’s safe, a base camp, which you really need when you’ve had a journey like mine.

My coaches also helped me secure a Crisis Changing Lives grant so I could get started as an illustrator. I did a pitch to a panel of experts, and got funding for a laptop, a mobile phone, a desk, art materials. I get vouchers in instalments so I can buy the materials I need as I go along.

I love capturing nature, buildings, people and animals and I’ve started selling originals and prints, creating gift cards and doing commissions too.

The Crisis coaches have been angels. They were so kind and supportive, right from my recovery to becoming self-employed. I’ve finished all my 121s with Crisis, which were superb. I’m getting my art out there, it’s me versus the world now, eek!

I know Crisis will always be there for me. I’ve gone back to the old Laura that I used to be, the sporty one, the healthy one. It’s a beautiful feeling and I’ve got so much hope for the future.”

You can check out Laura's art on Instagram and Facebook. You can also purchase Laura’s art by emailing her using the button below.

David's story

“When I heard of the Changing Lives grant, I was dealing with homelessness, being unemployed, and a disability that had started to manifest itself. I wanted to start a market stall selling soups, salads, and sandwiches but due to COVID and my inability to stand for any length of time meant I had to rethink my life.

I met with my work coach at Crisis, and we discussed what other skills I had, and the concept of this business was brought into focus, and I had hope. This was painting watercolor landscapes and due to COVID, selling online. I saw this as a way forward to becoming self-sufficient and not relying on benefits or handouts.

With the grant, I have been able to produce more original paintings and also introduce limited edition prints myself. I have started an online store and have also looked at public showings of my paintings. I now have hope that the future will give my life some worth and hopefully become respected in the art community.”

Next Steps

In 2020 Crisis and Impact Hub King’s Cross joined forces to create a programme that would support people experiencing homelessness to launch a business. Next Steps is a nine-month business programme that enables Crisis members to access tailored business education workshops, mentoring, peer networking, and funding to develop a business idea. Here, Samira and Lloyd talk a little more about the exciting programme.