More about us
The idea for Under One Sky (UOS) came from founder Mikkel Juel Iversen’s personal experience of supporting two homeless friends for one year each on his own initiative. This gave him direct exposure to the myriad of internal and external challenges a person faces when forced to live on the outside, and insight into the traumatic experiences that were the root causes of each individual’s situation.
At Christmas 2012, Mikkel together with his colleague Yaqub Hussain invited some friends to join them to walk the streets of Central London to let those affected by street homelessness know that they hadn’t been forgotten, and to distribute Christmas presents. This walk became the unintentional birth of Under One Sky.
From 2012 to 2019, UOS delivered a handful of large Skywalk outreach events each Winter, and the volunteer base grew steadily from eight people to over 600. UOS also became involved in supporting refugees living in the jungle camp in Calais.
By the end of 2019 UOS had supported over 4,000 homeless friends, and held Skywalk events in London, Cambridge and Madrid. Over the years the ‘life-support kits’ we distributed had evolved to include food, drinks, clothing, sleeping bags, gift cards, books, toiletries, and more.
Covid-19 was the incident which forced UOS to grow from a Winter pop-up to a 24/7 operation. With zero facilities, zero in the bank, zero permanent team members and no website UOS was ill equipped to play any part when Covid-19 struck. Steering team member Ben Harding suggested a small team should do a Skywalk to understand the reality on the streets. It left the team in shock for two reasons; 1) our homeless friends reported that all public and charity based support had disappeared overnight 2) half of the people encountered had become homeless that week. (line break). This resulted in UOS initiating an emergency response with Skywalks each day. During the height of the pandemic our teams supported 600 people daily. In the first year of Covid-19 our teams served our homeless friends 75,000 times, supported several individuals off the street, and our volunteer base grew to more than 1,000 compassionate human beings. (line break) Our baptism of fire to become an all-year round organisation was a clear sign, telling us the time had come to take a bigger step. Under One Sky is now writing this next chapter.
For us, everything starts with the individual human being. Those we befriend on the streets are often referred to as “the homeless”, “rough sleepers” and other dehumanising terms. We call them our friends to both celebrate their individuality and to highlight the equality in our relationships. All humans have the right to the same treatment and respect regardless of housing status, ethnicity, gender, social heritage, or any other label. We act in accordance with our belief that humanity is one family.
The foundation of our work is the power of human connection. While we do provide food and warm clothes, our priority is providing nourishment for the soul. Compassionate human connection is the oxygen we all need to heal and believe in tomorrow.
Our approach of walking the streets to connect with our friends is rooted in dignity. Why ask someone who has nowhere to put their belongings to travel far for a meal or a conversation? Why exclude those who have severe physical or mental health challenges from receiving support?
We live by and demonstrate these values: Love, Service, Community, Magic, Compassion, Courage, and Impact.
During our weekly Skywalks we have hundreds of conversations with our friends. Not only does this enable us to build strong and trusting relationships week after week, but they also help us to understand where we can immediately make a difference.
Our impactful work covers a wide spectrum: assisting with medical emergencies; organising and sponsoring transport to facilitate reconnection with family and friends; supporting our friends into work and accommodation; providing glasses, wheelchairs, mobile phones and bicycles; and much more.
Having a weekly street presence means we can have a consistent positive impact on our homeless friends’ mood, mental health, and sense of belonging. This is reflected to us through the trust, smiles and gratitude which our volunteer team experience on every Skywalk.
Going forward we plan to extend our impact to directly helping our homeless friends off the street permanently and support them to transform their lives from surviving to thriving.