From Buffalo to Brick Lane

We recently hosted an exchange visit from Daniel, who works in a homelessness service in Buffalo, USA as part of Homeless Link's Trans Atlantic Practice Exchange. He's written this fantastic blog about his experiences with us.

Daniel here. I just wanted to take a little bit of time to describe my extraordinary experience this April at Providence Row. 

I was lucky enough to be selected to participate in the 2017 Trans Atlantic Practice Exchange, sponsored by Homeless Link and the US National Alliance to End Homelessness. The Transatlantic Practice Exchange is aimed at developing best practice connections between US and UK homelessness service providers around a variety of topics. These topics are selected by participants and part of the application process. 5 individuals from the UK come to the US & Vice Versa.

My topic of choice was exploring how social enterprise can be used by organisations to provide both employment and training to individuals experiencing homelessness.
It only made sense that I was matched with Providence Row & specifically RISE Bakery!

While I only had the opportunity to spend seven days or so at Providence in total, everyone I encountered there made me feel as if I had already been part of the team for multiple years (yes even you too Pooja). 

Through shadowing and picking the brains of both Dom and Andrea, I began to see the origins and growth of Rise Bakery, practices and structures that sustain it, and most of all how Rise manages to stay focused on both high quality products and high quality services for trainees. When it comes to social enterprise, that balance is more of an art than a science.

Dom and Andrea also arranged some amazing experiences that exposed me to other various social enterprises all over London. I got to chill out at Canvass Café and see how a large national charity like Crisis runs its Crisis Café. Unfortunately I did not see Russell Brand at his Trew Era Café, but I was able to buy some amazing coffee at Old Spike Roastery and chat with some of the founders around their enterprise and mission. 

I did my best to get my hands dirty as well! I was able to meet a couple of trainees and assist in making and serving breakfast (literally I just washed dishes). Later on I did the same with some baking, specifically a batch of Rise’s new orange and coconut blondie brownies. And one night I was able to do some street outreach with St. Mungo’s.

While studying social enterprise was my primary mission, I couldn’t ignore the other services and supports around Providence Row. Whether that was chatting with Will about accommodation policies or hearing all about volunteer engagement from Stef, everything I did contributed to a positive experience.

I am still trying to wrap my head around everything I learned while in London. One thing is for certain, couldn’t have dreamed of a better experience! Thank you Providence for hosting me, and keep up the great work!