Up-cycling w/ Isolated Groups


Societal Issues Targeted:

  • Creating a light, fun social space for those likely to be needing a break from more serious issues
  • Teaching skills which could be used to make a small income, aiming to combine the workshop with a regular market stall 

Project Intro

This is a collective action event, local people simply coming together to do something good for their community – and so most participants wont have qualifications or experience at working with the homeless. For this reason we strongly suggest asking a local charity who will have qualified and experienced staff around and whether your team can come into their space to offer our activity to their members. That makes this project a much simpler one to set up.

The Up-cycling workshop teaches how to make useful and practical items out of materials that can easily be found for free or very cheap. We either make practical items that the homeless can use (like portable candle heaters or fold up thermal cups), or we make simple items that the homeless can sell. When I (Andy at Focallocal) am travelling I often make simple items and sell them to provide a very small income and that was in part the inspiration behind this event. I haven’t (yet), but if you can arrange a shop or market stall to sell them for your attendee’s that would be an excellent achievement!

Although there is a chance to earn an small income, or spark a passion for crafts that could lead to a career; the main purpose of the Up-cycling workshops is to provide a relaxed social space focused around a positive activity, providing a brief rest from the stresses of homelessness and a providing a feeling of normality which is often hard to find while living on the streets.

In many countries volunteers will need a criminal background check to show that they are safe to be around vulnerable people. In the UK you can get them free if what you are doing is purely voluntary, by calling your local council or visiting NAVCA and typing your location into the search bar, if you call a few members near you one of them will be able to help you apply for a free volunteers background DRB check.


  • Suggested Equipment: Recycled household materials, or stuff found in the streets, recycling centres or or in rubbish/trash/junk yards.
  • Suggested Locations: Contact a local charity working with a group likely to be isolated, like a homeless shelter and ask if you can bring an activity into their space that will benefit their members.
  • Please post an article here to share all the positives that came from the day and inspire others to set one up where they live too.
  • At day centres, especially in the winter a lot of homeless people just come to sleep in the warm sometimes most don’t want to join in. A few times no-one has wanted to join in and so our team just walk around and make small talk with the people there, which is a fun and useful activity.
  • Its best to only invite people you know, as some people are not sensitive to the needs of people in a difficult situation. For example, well-meaning, but massively over-excited individuals taking selfies of them with “the homeless person” to share with their friends on Facebook could make your guests feel like a spectacle.
  • Its a good idea to tailor activities for a mostly male audience when working with the homeless. According to a “2011 CHAIN”” report 9 out of 10 people sleeping rough are male, as men get less help from the government and are less likely to receive offers of a place to stay from friends and family, or to ask for help. Not wanting to offend anyone, equality is great, just i’ve tried teaching jewellery making more than once and it didnt go down well.
  • Its best to keep the groups of volunteers small to appear as a small group is more intimate and inviting. I usually just invite 3 or 4 people I know will be suited to the activity and I trust.   

Legal Stuff (how it worked out for us) 

  • The events take place in established centres so there are trained staff around and all legal requirements should be covered. This makes the project possible without a huge time commitment to dealing with legal red-tape. As long as there is always a member of staff with you background checks can normally be avoided (although its not a bad idea to get them anyway).

  • Some centres will have forms you’ll need to fill out before coming into their centre.   


Upcycling Workshop with the Homeless 2013 - Focallocal

Upcycling Workshop with the Homeless 2013 – Focallocal


Upcycling Workshop with people who are homeless 2013