Dan Atkins is an ex-party bus host and PE teacher turned Buses4Homelss CEO. Buses4Homeless is a low cost holistic solution to homlessness, upcycling decommissioned buses into spaces for Eating, Sleeping, Wellbeing and Learning in order to re-engage homeless people back into the society.
Help homeless people to integrate back into society
Where did your career start?
Looking back, I remember being 14 or 15 years old and having a chat with my friends and realising that I’d always wanted to come to the UK to do a 2-year working holiday visa teaching PE. As beautiful as New Zealand is, it's on the other side of the world, and I’d always aspired to want to see the world.
What made you decide to move away from teaching after 8 years?
We had a significant incident in my family, we lost my Brother. An event like this quickly puts life into perspective. You realise what is actually important and nothing these days can phase me really because I’ve seen the worst. But from that moment on I decided to make that shift and to make that change, and actually do something more significant.
Tell us a little about Buses4Homeless. How did it come about?
One day I walked into the yard and discovered a friend of mine sleeping rough underneath a coach where you put your luggage. That broke my heart. I bought him a bus that today, took it back to the yard, kitted it out, and he lived in that for 2 years. Having done a lot of research and understanding the homeless statistics and figures in the country, I just knew it was time to take action and make a difference.
How does it work?
There are hundreds of surplus to require doubledecker buses in London, and most of them are sent to the scrapyard. Instead, we’re trying to upcycle as many of them as possible into eating, sleeping, learning and wellbeing spaces that really help homeless people. It’s all about helping understand how and why these people have become homeless in the first place. Most people wrongly assume that drugs and alcohol are the causing factors. However, we believe that they’re both a coping mechanism for life on the streets but most importantly life in their minds and hearts.
Which bus is your favourite?
The most important thing for anybody is shelter and food, but that’s not what’s going to make the fundamental change. My favourite is the bus 4 wellness, where we’re helping people through their issues, their inner demons, and then layering them back in positivity and support.
What needs to change regarding the public perception of homelessness?
People really are desentized to it. Most people would go up to a person that has a dog and be more concerned about the dog than the actual person with the dog, which is totally wrong, but that’s what society is turning into.. What needs to change is that people actually need to care, and get out of their own heads. Unfortunately, most people go through their lives concerned about trivial stuff, and it’s not until you have these big significant life events that you become aware that life isn’t just watching Love Island or tweets from a celebrity and actually there is a person on the street that you can go up to just say “Hello Sir or Ma'am, what’s your name?” and build a relationship with that one person. It’s something as simple as spending 10 or 20 seconds to make eye contact, to actually acknowledge that they're there, to ask them their names and how they are today. You may not realise but that may save somebody's life.
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