At the moment, with the aim of taking a positive approach to these strange times, I’m trying to make my writing a mix of explainers, ideas on possible greener and fairer futures, and taking some time to highlight independent and ethical companies or initiatives. Many of these small organisations are completely reliant on internet support at the moment, so I’m happy to use my little online space to talk about the work they’re doing.
Today is another one of these days, and I want to talk about Pivot, who make beautiful sustainable goods while also supporting homeless individuals in the UK.
Homelessness in the UK
Sadly, the number of people experiencing homelessness in the UK has reached extremely high levels. In light of recent times, it’s also an issue that is not going away anytime soon.
Homelessness is not simply rough sleeping, it also includes the hidden homeless and those who move between temporary accommodation options. A person can declare themselves homeless to their local authority, which gives them the right to housing. However local authorities are squeezed, and therefore often unable to provide permanent housing. Many people are placed in temporary accommodation, waiting to access social housing or the private rental sector. Often they find themselves stuck on long waiting lists, subject to discrimination, and unable to move out of their circumstances.
According to recent statistics: In England alone 57,890 households were accepted as homeless last year, with nearly 1/4 of local councils classifying homelessness as a major problem. In London, where Pivot mainly operates, over 50% of people stay in temporary accommodation for over 12 months. What is meant to be a short term stop gap can stretch into much longer periods of time, with nearly 1/5 of people in temporary accommodation for 5-10 years. This isn’t the best way to care for those who need help.
Temporary accommodation is often cramped, unsuitable, and sometimes even dangerous. It can have a devastating impact on people’s lives and mental health, and it’s no place for anyone to call home…
This can’t go on. Temporary accommodation can be an important short-term measure, but when so many people are finding themselves stuck there it’s clear that the government must invest more in schemes to prevent homelessness in the first place – and ultimately to end it once and for all
How Pivot helps
Pivot is an ethical and sustainable jewellery brand who empower those experiencing homelessness, with the aim of helping them pivot the direction of their lives and transition out of temporary accommodation, through the practical experience of making and enterprise.
They design products that can easily be made in hostels, utilising materials like brass and stainless steel, to bring flexible and meaningful employment for vulnerable people who may find it hard to access work. The flexible nature of the work means that makers can adapt to fit their schedules and other needs, and every piece of jewellery purchased helps these makes take one more step towards leaving temporary accommodation. Those Pivot work with also find the work therapeutic; helping them combat social isolation and grow in confidence while also paying towards their upkeep at the hostel.
Here are some things the makers themselves had to say about being part of the Pivot family:
I was homeless and hopeless. I didn’t imagine myself that I would be making jewellery and selling it in shops. Being part of Pivot has helped me mentally and has given me self confidence in working with a team and being part of a social enterprise. I remember like it was yesterday, first time walking into jewellery session. I was shy, nervous and didn’t know what to expect but with each class I have seen myself improving. I have something to look forward to in 2020 and can rewrite my life again.
I now have a different perspective for the future. I feel much more creative now and have found that I am able to do things I never thought I could do. I enjoy the entire process in making the pieces all by hand and learning things I never knew before, it’s also therapeutic. I absolutely love working with the team and the positive energy we all get from one another. The whole concept has been inspirational. I now have a different outlook on life.
How you can show your support
Due to recent circumstances, Pivot has had to cancel all of their pop-ups, where they usually make the bulk of their sales. In the wake of this, they are focusing on online sales and caring for their makers from afar. While they can’t meet face to face, Pivot are supporting them remotely instead. Production has also had to change, as some processes involve group making sessions.
However, there are still things we can do to support vulnerable workers during this time.
The first is that you can still buy jewellery from Pivot. While some pieces can’t be made under current conditions, they have plenty of stock that was already made in anticipation of pop-ups. The more they sell, the more they can put into production with makers under these new conditions. Prices range from £14 – £25, making them particularly affordable for sustainable jewellery. You can also simply spread the message, telling friends and family about Pivot’s work. They may want to support it, and any and all purchases are useful in this time.
If you don’t want jewellery right now, you can instead buy a gift voucher for your future self or as a gift for someone else, or donate directly to help cover the cost of housing for makers. Pivot would usually cover this cost, but are currently also accepting donations as they can’t necessarily offer enough work to cover all housing costs as usual. It costs £31.25 to cover the cost of accommodation for one person for a week, or £500 to cover the cost for four makers for one month, so every little helps.
That being said, my favourite thing that you can do is choose to #spreadthelovesendahug. Recently Pivot launched their hugs soon bookmark which you can buy for your loved ones or yourself for £10 (including postage and packaging). The brass bookmark is hand-finished by Pivot’s London makers and can be completed without the need for a group session. It comes in two options, plain or with the word “soon”, and for each sale, Pivot is also donating £2 to the Crisis Homelessness Emergency Fund.
These bookmarks are both genuinely helpful to own and a beautiful and easy way to support Pivot. They’re also one of the nicest ways to send a loving hug to someone you still may not be able to see right now, as they can be popped in the post incredibly easily, and are a kind gift without being too expensive or taking up a lot of room on the recipient’s end.
Plus, let’s be honest, they’re definitely useful at a time when reading is one of the main activities we are still able to enjoy. I’ve already sent a few out for quarantine birthday celebrations, as well as keeping one for myself, because I love everything they stand for and how they help others too.
What may seem like a small gesture can make a whole world of difference to a small enterprise like Pivot, and the makers they support. If you can afford to, I think this is a great way to send a little bit of love and solidarity out into the world, and it’s an initiative I’m more than happy to support.