Caroline Muir is the Major Gift Fundraiser for the 18 Keys Project. 18 Keys is changing the lives of women with
long term experience of sleeping rough on the streets
of London. Creating a space where their specific needs
can be met.
What inspires you to do the work that you do and how did you start out in that world?
I really enjoy the work that I do and getting to know new people. The ones I meet are usually fascinating. They have often done great things with their lives and it makes them feel fulfilled when they give some of their wealth away to causes that matter to them. I get to hear extraordinary stories about what inspired them, what moves them, and how they might want to be remembered too.
My first big charity project was to create a primary school in Yunnan, China in a place with very limited resources at that time. I worked with a friend from Beijing and she introduced me to a vastly different culture and way of life. We are still in touch with those children, some of whom are now graduates with great jobs and families. It was fascinating. People talk about having flow in a job which makes it feel easy. That was how it felt, despite very little experience.
I am happiest when I know that what I am working on is going to have a lasting value of some sort. So, working on the 18 keys project and creating a blueprint for how we support women with a long term experience of being homeless, readily appeals to me. Like me, I know lots of people want to help with this really complex issue and this is a great, practical way to do so. I enjoy speaking about the project, hearing what the issue means to others and collaborating to make a difference.
18 Keys is changing the lives of women who have been sleeping rough on the streets of London. Please can you tell us more about the project?
The 18 Keys Project is set up to create a fund to make it possible to provide hope and homes for women with long term experience of street homelessness. They will be given a place of safety, the support of great staff and the right facilities and the rest will be down to their efforts. The situation is really tough out there right now, with the average life expectancy for a woman living on the streets of London down to 43 years.
We hope the project will act as a blueprint for how we support women in this situation and that this will be inspiring to others in the sector. You can read more about this on our website, https://18keys.org/ but suffice to say that we are a campaign of women working to help others find friends, skills and ultimately independent lives.
What circumstances usually contribute to homelessness, and what will the entry criteria be?
Homelessness is such a complex issue. There are many factors that can reduce someone to living on the street. It is known that women are more vulnerable both mentally and physically in this situation. Some factors that are driving women onto the streets are; domestic violence, breakdown of relationships, poverty, a lack of social housing- particularly for those leaving care or prison, and unemployment.
Alongside the housing, what support will you provide to help these women reintegrate back into society?
Women will be referred to our centre through a variety of routes including recommendation via charities and the local authorities. Women with longer term experience will be the priority residents and they will be asked to commit to the programme of support that they are helping to design.
They have been telling us what matters to them most, from the types of therapies they feel work well to the kind of IT training they need. They are helping to design the new facilities which will make the difference between a roof over heads and a place where people can thrive. This means that it is very much a joint effort, with women being given the dignity of knowing what they want and the opportunity to act on their strengths with highly qualified frontline workers around them.
What measures will be used to measure impact?
The Connection at St Martin’s, who own and manage the site, will provide this programme of support, from psychologists to yoga teaching and computer skills to cooking and gardening.
They work alongside a team of researchers called the Women’s Development Unit who are gathering data on best practice for working within this sector and who will advise on impact measurement.
How can people support the project?
We are a fundraising project and people can support us by making donations via our website, 18keys.org/donate/ or by sending us cheques to St Martin-in-the-Fields Trust.
Please send these to 5 St Martin’s Place, Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 4JH.
Alternatively, you might like to provide ongoing support by setting up a direct debit or standing order. If so, please contact email@example.com for more information.
If you are a trust or foundation and would like to support the 18 Keys Project please contact Sarah.firstname.lastname@example.org