Homeless International to take on social enterprise model

What was a traditional international development charity has begun offering loans to African and Asian partner organisations to build homes in poor communities

Homeless International
Homeless International

Homeless International is changing its model from an international development charity to a social enterprise and will issue bonds so that it can offer loans to NGOs in Africa and Asia.

The charity, which has operated as a traditional development charity since its establishment in the 1980s, has started offering loans to its African and Asian partner organisations to enable them to build homes in poor communities.

It previously relied on grants from the Department for International Development, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency and Comic Relief, which it passed on to its partners in developing countries, all of which are active in the housing sector or development in general.

The charity said that its new model would allow it to make a more sustainable impact.

Once the houses are built by Homeless International’s partners, they will be sold or rented, with micro-mortgages offered to poor people who wish to buy.

"The money comes back to our partner with a small amount of interest and eventually it gets recycled back to us," said Alan Machin, head of funding and marketing at the charity. "We will reinvest it in the same partner or a different organisation to continue building new houses. It means we’re working the money that we’ve got a lot harder."

Homeless International is also rebranding to reflect its new identity, although it will not reveal its new name before an event to mark the rebrand in London on 16 September.

Machin said the rebrand cost less than £25,000 and the name change was motivated by a need to reflect what the charity does more accurately.

He said many people saw Homeless International as a Shelter that worked overseas, rather than a charity focused on creating homes. He said the website, which was "very tired", would get a new look to make it more accessible and less text-rich.

Machin said the charity planned to raise money for its work by releasing bonds. Homeless International, which had an income of £11.7m in 2013/14, will seek investors in the equity of its partner NGOs and is also launching a programme of crowd funding for some of its projects.

Through the changes, which will take place over the next two years, Homeless International plans to expand the number of countries and partners it works with. It is creating a cloud-based banking and software system for use by all of its partners to make it easier for it to assist them when financial or technical difficulties arise.

Susannah Birkwood

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