Brixton charity HandyHelp Co provides the community with extra hands

Christina Jaenicke visits a local non-profit organisation that helps long-term jobseekers find their way back into employment while offering a low-cost and ethical service for any job you might need doing around the home and garden.

Dane Wick, Clean Slate
Dane Wick, Clean Slate

Meet Brixton-based Dane Wick, a former caretaker of a residential complex. When Dane lost his job a few years ago, he was living with his dad who was suffering from dementia. They ended up losing their home; Dane was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and fell into a depression while chasing down job centres looking for a new occupation – without success.

Yet, today Dane is probably one of the most hopeful and cheerful characters you will ever meet, thanks to Clean Slate.

“As a caretaker; I was in charge of recycling, security, basic cleaning and maintenance services; I loved my job and was good at it, until they took it away. I tried job centres, but they are not really interested, they are too busy,” Dane says sadly. “I remember telling people ‘If I can find some work, I’d be happy; just something to get my mind off things’. So, when I first came to Clean Slate, I felt really low, I thought I’d never get another job, but they actually made it possible. They helped me get my independence back,” the 49-year-old continues.

Clean Slate is based on Stockwell Road. It provides training, support and employment to long term jobseekers, with a particular focus on those affected by homelessness. But, how does Clean Slate compare with job centres?

“Job centres are like doctors, you get to talk for five minutes to a job advisor and then they are off to the next one. At Clean Slate, somebody sits down with you and listens and actually gives you the time of day,” Dane explains.

At the start of the year, Clean Slate introduced HandyHelp Co, a project focusing on people like Dane who are interested in doing little jobs in gardens, homes and residential buildings whilst finding their way back into employment. At the same time, the service offers an additional layer of community support.

Clean Slate
Clean Slate

“HandyHelp Co provides employment to those we meet through Clean Slate who are looking for work in painting, decorating, cleaning and gardening. For customers, it offers a low-cost, ethical service for any jobs they need doing around the home,” Clean Slate’s communications officer Daniel Fineman explains.

“The point is to give people who cannot hold a job paid work and the first step into employment. It’s about confidence building: giving people who got bounced around from agency to agency the feeling that someone gives them a chance and appreciates their support while providing some kind of service to the community,” he continues.

Of course, some people are hesitant to let someone who is in danger of homelessness into their homes, Daniel admits. But, Clean Slate and Handy Help Co run comprehensive background checks and only send employees that are ready and qualified for the job, he assures, while proudly telling that they already landed their first customer in Croydon who needs help in their garden.

“While we already have some commercial customers, we are hoping to get the word out to more domestic customers in Brixton because we know this area has the community feel to embrace this type of project,” Daniel says, while elaborating on the in-depth assessment potential employees have to go through before being send out.

“We want to claim we can do it and then actually do it! We want people to know that they can count on us to get the job done while at the same time supporting our non-profit project and in that way giving back into the borough, into the community, into Brixton.”