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Lessons from Barcelona on helping the homeless pursue their passions

I'm sure most of us walk by homeless people on the streets or drive by their encampments and wonder how they got there – and what it would take to get them into a better place. Andrew Funk, an American entrepreneur living in Barcelona, not only wondered about Barcelona's homeless, he launched a very intriguing initiative to help them. – Liz Enbysk


A Deutsche Welle (DW) article on Andrew Funk's startup – Homeless Entrepreneur – dubs his effort to help homeless people in Barcelona launch businesses that match their talents and skills a success. Only a handful of participants are involved so far, but results are encouraging.

Funk tells DW he came up with the idea while walking around the city. "I saw all these homeless people begging on the street and I wondered what their story was," he told DW. "And then I realized that the reason people beg is probably because they think it is the best option they have."

Funk appears to have put a lot of thought into how to help the homeless. He notes that Barcelona has quite good services for the homeless – shelters, food, free clothing. Which suggested to him that if they get all of that for free, why would they give it up for a job they don't like?

That thinking led to Homeless Entrepreneur, which helps homeless people interested in getting off the streets start a business that utilizes their talents, skills and interests. It also helps them find stable jobs that they actually enjoy.

"We focus on their dream job, but also on a job that can provide them with a stable income," Funk told DW. "Marcos for example is a poet, so we helped him publish a book. His dream is to make money as a writer. But to generate a more stable income, he also takes care of a 55-year-old man with brain paralysis."

Funk's initiative uses crowdfunding to get participants a place to live and start-up costs. They donate a percentage of their wages and/or proceeds from their entrepreneurial projects (like the book) back to Homeless Entrepreneur.

He's convinced that helping homeless people follow their passion can get them motivated about life and about reintegrating into society.

Related articles:
Quick takes: 5 cities, 5 assorted initiatives helping the homeless
How a Texas woman used Facebook and GoFundMe to change a homeless man's life
Foundation uses special website to engage young, homeless sofa hoppers

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This article is from the Council's Compassionate Cities initiative which highlights how city leaders and other stakeholders can leverage smart technologies to end suffering in their communities and give all citizens a route out of poverty. Click the Compassionate Cities box on our registration page to receive our weekly newsletter.

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