information for transformational people

UTurn 246U-Turn - a sustainable way to address the needs of the homeless

U-Turn Homeless Ministry is a thriving, Christian, non-profit organization based in Cape Town, South Africa. U-Turn believes that the world will be a better place for everyone, if homeless people are assisted to become whole again. They believe that this is possible and with the right help, everyone can become whole.

Over the past 21 years, U-Turn have created pathway out of homelessness which engages the community, links with specialist providers for support services, develops life skills and gets people into employment whilst generating 42% of income from social enterprise.

There are 5 parts to the pathway:

1. They partner with the community who donate second-hand clothing, help fund U-turn’s work and buy U-turn vouchers which are given to the homeless.  The vouchers are bought by members of the public to give to a homeless person instead of food or money. Second-hand clothing is donated through one of their 93 clothing bins across the city, and after being washed in their laundry, is sold in their five charity stores or given to the homeless.
2. The homeless redeem vouchers for food and clothing at the U-turn Service Centre, and also access support services. This provides an entry-point into U-Turn services where trained staff can engage with the homeless person and link them to services they need. If an individual arrives at the Service Centre without a voucher, they ask them to earn it through ragging. This is a process of cutting up the clothes that are too worn out to be sold and turning them into rags for reselling. Any services delivered to individuals still living on the street is considered 1st phase work. There is a graded way to prepare an individual for referral off the street and into a more structured environment such as a shelter and substance rehab programme. The grades are a) Needs based - basic survival, b) Volition based - Bible study/activities to build motivation for change, c) Rehabilatative services. 
3. Addiction rehab and shelter are provided through partners, along with encouragement and therapy, to start the journey to life off the street. 
4. A life change programme provides work experience, vocational skills and an individual development plan with an Occupational Therapist. Life Change provides work-based rehabilitation and training to individuals. They are assigned to a work team where they experience real working
environments in the laundry, one of the U-turn Charity Stores or the U-turn Service Centre. In addition, one day a week, each person undertakes further training, counselling and input using a specially designed curriculum with subjects such as money management, driving lessons, conflict resolution, etc. This cycle of learning and then application continues for as long as needed, and takes an average of two years.
5. Graduation after 1-3 years of training and therapy, when individuals secure stable employment.

In 2017, 1055 different individuals received help. 974 accessed basic needs services such as food and clothing. 498 participated in services to ignite the desire to change. 138 participated in rehab support services. 53 were successfully referred to another service provider. 83% of those sponsored through addiction rehab graduated. 17 people were in employment 6 months after leaving U-turn. 81 people are supported each day on average. 9,675 meals were provided. 14022 vouchers were redeemed. 23 tonnes of clothing were donated. Many volunteers gave their time to support U-turn in many practical ways.

Listen to Luke's story - 2 min:

U-turn is now ready to be taken to scale – to grow to several locations around Cape Town and 10 other cities in South Africa. Scaling up the innovative U-turn programme has the potential to effectively address homelessness more rapidly, and use limited resources towards greater social impact.

Download the 2017 Annual Report here.

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Geoff Knott, 07/03/2018

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