Generation Share: The change-makers building the Sharing Economy by Benita Matofska and Sophie Sheinwald is out this month. The book takes readers on a journey around the globe to meet the people who are changing and saving lives by building a Sharing Economy, including Jacob Berkson who set up Thousand 4 £1000, a migrant solidarity campaign that crowdfunds rent for refugees in Brighton.
We crowdfund rent though reoccurring micro donations for people who are denied access to housing because of their immigration status. Some people are forced to cross borders regularly; they arrive in this country and are not entitled to work or get housing benefit, their access to housing is non-existent. It forces people into homelessness and destitution. We wanted to come together to give a little of our spare change each month. We initially said that we would get a thousand people to give us £1 a month and with £1,000 we could find a home for two people. The project has expanded beyond that.
There’s a lot of sharing that happens in this work: sharing money through crowdfunding, sharing the stuff people need like bedding and vacuums, sharing space – I’ve usually got someone on my sofa – and sharing extraordinary quantities of time. People get excited by the project and start helping us. They meet a refugee for a cup of coffee and end up writing policies and locating insurance. It’s beyond housing as they need support with their legal situation and emotional support. Often they’ve got kids and they are trying to look at family rights too.
We are currently housing 14 people, including two families, a mum and three kids, a family of five and three single men. It’s made all the difference to their lives. One family would have been sleeping rough and their youngest is two. I’ve become very good friends with people who I’ve helped. I’m very disabled and I need care. I had a crisis – I managed to mess up the rota and I was going be without someone to help me overnight. One of our guys came to the rescue. He was able to help me. The sharing goes both ways.
In the long run we aim to be part of the dismantling of a hostile environment, so at the very least we push the border back to the border. Once you’re in the country, you should have the same access to the law and goods and services as everyone else. Scaling up would create a kinder world, a world with a public space where we would be visible to each other. I want people to recognise me – I want to make a difference. I don’t want us to be invisible to each other.
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Image Credit: Sophie Sheinwald