By Dan Coles
A dad is making homelessness history one job at a time – by hiring rough sleepers to staff his painting and decorating company.
Married dad-of-one Matt Lambert set up Re:Gen Maintenance Services in July last year to equip homeless men and women with the skills needed to get back on their feet, by giving them not just a place on his training support program but a place to live too.
The 39-year-old handyman and charity worker, from Wolverhampton, West Mids, works with homeless shelters to employ rough sleepers as trainees in his company, paying them enough to cover their housing, which he provides but charges rent for, and living expenses.
Matt said: “I started out running a housing charity five years ago, then launched a night shelter after hearing of a woman who died on the streets in Wolverhampton.
“But we had to work out how to release people who would be able to maintain stability after getting off the streets.
“Re:Gen Maintenance Services started with one tradesman, one house and two trainees, and so far it is going really well.
“Our trainees have right now have routine, responsibilities and the time needed to put their former chaotic lifestyle to rest.
“One told me he now has real stability, a roof over his head, food and the freedom to really transform his life into what he wants it to be.
“Every day is a great, having these guys off the streets, working – these things don’t happen overnight and ultimately we want our staff to be independent and flourishing.”
Matt launched his company last year after deciding it wasn’t just enough to give homeless people somewhere to stay.
He wanted to provide rough sleepers with a pathway towards employment which would act as a backbone for them to get themselves back into a sustainable living situation.
Matt brainstormed ideas and decided to rent a home in Wolverhampton for his trainees to live in while they develop their skills.
He also currently works with one self-employed tradesman who trains the staff.
The money the homeless staff get paid for decorating jobs covers their rent and living expenses in his rental property while they learn the trade.
Together they have decorated several properties to date, charging customers competitive rates to challenge other local businesses offering the same service.
Matt said: “We had to look at ways of giving rough sleepers everything someone would need to get back on their feet, but without having to do it all at once.
“Otherwise, people are expected to go from being on the streets to getting a job and taking on a tenancy all at once, which was quite often overwhelming.
“Our tradesman that take on jobs, and the proceeds of those jobs we use to cover the trainees’ living expenses, using the rest to develop the programme itself.
“For me, tackling homelessness comes from my faith, I’m a Christian.
“I have a heart and want people who are down and out to be looked after and taken care of.”
One of the new trainees, Latvian-born Mattis, 28, was homeless and living on the streets of Wolverhampton until Re:Gen stepped in.
He said: “I came from another city and found myself living on the streets.
“They offered me the chance to stay in the shelter and then talked to me about the training service.
“Currently I do painting and decorating and some woodwork.
“This is a really good stepping stone – time will tell, but I’m happy here.
“It feels good, it feels like I’ve found a light and no longer need to worry.”
In the future, Re:Gen plans to employ tradesmen in multiple different fields, allowing the next lot of formerly-homeless trainees to chose what they want to learn and get paid to do it too.
Matt said: “Why shouldn’t everyone have equal opportunities and similar considerations?
“We’re trying to make homelessness history, nobody should be left behind.
“It’s about freedom, it’s about equality, it’s about building community.”