Brian and Derek - Kingsway House

Life After Kingsway House – Derek and Brian’s Story

In the winter of 2017, as Liverpool was facing a peak in the number of homeless and vulnerable people living on its streets, Signature Living opened a unique homeless shelter, Kingsway House.

It all started after Chairman of the company, Lawrence Kenwright, purchased Kingsway House earlier in the year and came face to face with the homeless crisis on a new and personal level. People had been using the building for shelter and warmth, the reality of the issue really hit home with Lawrence and he couldn’t turn them away.

With freezing temperatures and countless people in doorways, Lawrence Kenwright decided to make a change and open Kingsway House to everyone who needed help. During this time, he was approached by David O’Keefe, a self-confessed hippy stuck in a dead-end job, with enthusiasm he dreamed of putting into the city.

Together, David and Lawrence opened the doors to the vulnerable people of Liverpool and soon the residents of the shelter became a close-knit family. Two of these vulnerable residents have since become employed by Signature Living and now are the proud owners of a business.

Both Brian and Derek came to Kingsway House seeking shelter, warmth and a family. They found everything they needed, but sadly when the harshest months of winter were over, the shelter was forced to close after facing pressure from the council.

Brian and Derek - Kingsway House

Derek and Brian

Before Kingsway, Brian lived in a doorway on Old Hall Street, which was how he became known as Mr Old Hall Street. Always seen with his signature top hat and a friendly smile for every passer-by, Brian is famous in Liverpool. Derek is originally from Ireland, he travelled to Liverpool looking for work but after he broke his leg, he found himself vulnerable and in need of help. He heard about Kingsway House, met Brian and the rest is history.

The pair have now embarked on a new and exciting journey as entrepreneurs, so we sat down with them to discover what happened after the shelter closed and what life is like for them after Kingsway House.

 

Where did it all start with Signature?

Brian – I was living on the streets and was friends with David (O’Keefe). As the winter was getting closer, we were looking for someone like Lawrence who had property that could possibly help the homeless. We found Lawrence. He offered to let vulnerable people like us stay at Kingsway House, a building he had just bought.

Before we met him, we had never heard of Signature Living. But I’m so grateful to him. He’s such a great guy, I’m so glad we found him.

Derek – I was familiar with the hotels yeah. When I first came to Kingsway, it was a new experience for me you know. My aim was to help out as best I could and hopefully get a full-time job at the end and a place to live. And you know, it’s worked out well in the end.

 

What did you get from Kingsway that you didn’t get from similar shelters?

Brian – I’ve never actually been in other shelters, but I’ve heard stories about them. Kingsway House gave me hope and gave me confidence. It brought the real person out in me. I got love and respect from everyone at Kingsway, we were a family. And Lawrence knows everyone by name, he’s just a fantastic man, he made you feel part of it all.

Derek – When I came to Kingsway House, I was so happy with how different it was. Usually, at other shelters you have to do an assessment. They assess you, ask you lots of questions and decide whether you’ll be let in.

They might offer you a hostel from it, but not always. I was actually in another shelter a year ago because I had broken my leg playing football and needed help. When I first got there, I was assessed, and they told me I had to go back to Ireland. They even gave me a ticket. They said it was because had no connections in Liverpool and so they couldn’t house me.

But the difference with Kingsway was that they accept anyone in and there’s more fun in the hostel. They have music playing, there’s dancing, everyone gets on well as a family. I know there’s a lot of arguments as well but, you know, that’s family life!

You also got free meals three times a day, clothing donations and warm beds. Signature really made a difference and were fantastic in helping the homeless.

 

What happened after the shelter closed?

Derek – When the shelter closed a lot of people were disappointed because they made it their home. But, Signature did everything they could, they were obviously under pressure from the council and in the end, they had to close it.

Brian – It was sad to see. A few of the people have gone back to living on the street. When they first came into the shelter, they were ill and unhealthy, but when they came out they looked so good! I think some of them have gone back to their old ways now because there’s nowhere else for them to go.

Derek – But Signature did more than good for everyone, they really helped all the homeless people. They got them hostels, they gave around 15 of them jobs, they gave them every bit of support. They were fantastic.

Brian – Yeah, they gave them love.

 

And of course, you two are now entrepreneurs! What’s the best thing about owning your own business?

Brian – It’s fantastic, you know, because I get to tell him (Derek) what to do!

Derek – No you don’t!

Both laughing

Derek – No, of course it’s a proud moment and something that we never thought would happen. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime. It’ all thanks to Lawrence Kenwright and Sue Wright, they gave us the opportunity to get on our feet and really do well for ourselves.

So, we now run the car park and a cleaning business next to Kingsway House. We’re not going to become millionaires but we’re doing well!

As business owners we have been able to give a few more of the homeless people jobs and help out our friends who are in need. It’s been amazing and such a great opportunity for both of us.

Brian – It’s the best car park in Liverpool and the happiest!

Derek – And the cheapest! The car park is full every day by 8.30am, Monday to Friday and still does well on the weekend. From the money we made, we bought a jet wash machine, a proper petrol one so we can jet wash any cars that need it whilst they’re in the car park. All of our customers are more than happy with our work!

It sounds like an easy job, but it’s challenging. You need to be very organised. I know every customer that comes in, make sure I keep spots for staff and always treat the customers well every time.

Brian – He’s great at the business side and dealing with the customers. . . *singing* “He’s got personality, personality, personality.”

Lawrence and Brian

Brian and Lawrence Kenwright

 

What does your typical day look like?

Brian – Oh I just look forward to getting up every day now, being out with the people and having a laugh. I love making people smile. I’m just over the moon, I’m so happy. I’ve never been so happy in all my life.

Derek – I feel like I have my life back on track now, I wake up every morning and I’m glad for the routine. I appreciate what I have, I just hope I never find myself in the situation I was in ever again. I look forward now and not back. I just hope to keep on building what I have.

 

What’s your favourite thing about Liverpool?

Brian – The people. The people are fantastic, unbelievable. They saved my life when I lived in the doorway every day.

Derek – Definitely the people. The amount of generosity that was shown, the amount of food, clothes and bedding that was brought to the shelter was amazing. I find them similar to the Irish people, they’re outgoing, easy going, living to help others and that’s what Liverpool is all about and that’s the reputation they have.

Brian – Yeah, they talk to the homeless, they don’t ignore them. Everyone needs that little helping hand to get them off the streets and it’s just nice when you’re seen as a human being.

 

We know you like to have a dance Brian, what songs make you smile?

Brian – It’s got to be Street Life hasn’t it. Street Life by Randy Crawford. *sings* “Street life, it’s the only life I know.”

But I like loads of different kinds of music. I like going to raves and I like a bit of the eighties stuff.

 

What inspired the way you dress?

Brian – It’s so I can get noticed, you know, to highlight the homeless. I get a lot of people stopping me and saying, why’ve you got that suit on and I’ll say it’s for the homeless. Basically, that’s why I started wearing my top hat first. I’ve had my hat for over 12 months now, people never used to notice me, but with my hat they see me. It’s become my trademark now.

Derek – I need to get a signature look I think. I did have a dell boy hat, but I left it in the pub last week!

 

If you could all have a super power for one day, what would it be?

Derek – That’s a hard one, but I think I’d love to be able to fly. You could get to any destination you wanted so quickly, quicker than an aeroplane and cheaper! You could see the world and explore new places, that would be amazing.

Brian – I would want to be able to spread love. Everywhere and to everyone.

 

What are the best things people can do in Liverpool to help the homeless?

Derek – Give them food and clothing.

Brian – And speak to them, say hello to them. It’s not about money. You sit there for hours and hours and not one person says hello to you. Giving them money is the worst thing to do.

Derek – Yeah, a lot of homeless people have problems, addictions, so giving them money won’t help. The best thing you can do is give them warm clothing, food, bedding and material things that will help them to live. And obviously help them to find access to a shelter or help to open a permanent shelter for vulnerable people.

Brian – Being homeless is very lonely, it’s a lonely and sad world. I just think the government should do more, they don’t do anything.

Kingsway House

Kingsway House

What are your hopes for the future?

Derek – I’d like to continue what I’m doing, continue working hard and hopefully more opportunities will come up. We’re on a contract with Signature now, so I just hope it carries on.

Brian – My hopes are to have my own place, just be able to have a shower and all that in peace. And, of course, I’ll always carry on helping the homeless.

Derek – Yeah Brian is so brilliant with the homeless, he goes out every Tuesday and Friday and gives sandwiches out to them. They all stop and say ‘Hi Brian’ – he looks after them, he’s an ambassador for the homeless if you ask me.

And yeah, of course I dream about having my own place too, maybe down the road or something.

Brian – Make sure it’s down the road from me!

Derek’s a good cook you know.

Derek – Yeah, I like to cook anything and everything. I just cook the basics really, but I enjoy it. Maybe one day I’ll be a chef!

 

Kingsway House saw lots of people take a new path in life, with somewhere to live and a better support system. The shelter also offered more people the chance to gain a better understanding of homelessness in Liverpool.

At Signature Living, we are proud to help the vulnerable people of our city and do all we can to make Liverpool a safer and better place for the homeless. Brian and Derek have changed their lives around, they now have jobs and have accommodation. Our shelter gave the people of Liverpool a spark to make a change and we’ll continue to do all we can to help. 

graduate job Liverpool

5 Tips for Securing Your Dream Graduate Job

From networking, to gaining valuable experience and realising your strengths, there are so many things you can do to get one step closer to securing your dream graduate job.

At Signature Living careers, we wanted to give you a helping hand with these 5 handy tips.

Happy job hunting!

Choose a career path and focus everything on it

It’s a well-known fact that employers don’t like vague applications. Pick something that best suites your interests, experience, skills and passion. If you can demonstrate these things when applying for a job within that sector, you’ll always do better than if you try and cover all bases.

Attend relevant networking events and careers fairs

Having a good set of networks is really beneficial when searching for a graduate job. Make an effort to join professional groups and familiarise yourself with professionals who you respect for their work and behaviour. Whether that’s at a networking event or a careers fair, it’s the perfect way to get your foot in the door.

Signature Works is all about bringing people together in an environment that engenders collaboration, networking and skill-sharing. They regularly hold informative and innovative networking events that are sure to help you meet new people, learn new skills and boost your employability.

Gain experience in your field, paid or voluntary

Remember, your first job probably won’t be your job for life, everything is a stepping stone. Therefore, if you can build your experience and offer more to your first employer, it will put you in a much better position when it comes to progressing in the world of work.

Whether it’s paid or voluntary work, showing enthusiasm for the sector you want to work in is vital to securing your first job. It will allow you to stand out from the crowd and remember it is not necessarily about the role you have done, but the transferable skills you have developed.

Don’t feel limited by your degree

You don’t have to be an English teacher just because you studied English! Lots of employers are looking for graduates from all disciplines and are mostly interested in the skills and abilities that graduates can bring to their organisation.

Don’t fall into the age-old trap of thinking you have to do a job that is directly related to your degree subject. Your degree has developed more than just your subject knowledge, so there may be opportunities out there which you are ideally suited to, you just haven’t realised it yet.

Harness the power of social media

In this day and age, social platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter can be used to find jobs and they are a great platform for showing more of your personality and interests to potential employers.

Research suggests 40% of employers use social media to screen candidates, so it’s important to keep your online profile clean. It can either be a friend or foe, so make sure you use it to your advantage. Employers have been known to check up on a candidate before inviting them for interview, so it’s important to ensure you keep all publicly accessible information employer-friendly.

Signature Careers: Graduate Job

We hope you’ve enjoyed our top 5 tips on how to secure your dream graduate job. If you’d like more information on current vacancies and opportunities at Signature Living, follow our Facebook page or upload your CV here and our friendly careers team may be in touch!

Today, Signature Living employ over 700 people, providing secure jobs across a wide range of sectors with no zero-hour contracts. We have revolutionised the accommodation market and hope to expand even further throughout the UK and abroad.

How To Get Noticed on LinkedIn

Recruiters are constantly scanning LinkedIn to find top candidates.

Having a below average profile, which is essentially your online resume, could mean you’re missing out on job opportunities.

If you maximise your LinkedIn profile you may not be looking for your next job, it could come and find you.

To help you get noticed on LinkedIn, we’ve put together a few helpful tips on how to stand out from the crowd.

cover letter mistakes

Fill Out the Summary Section

The summary section on LinkedIn is a great place to showcase your achievements and professional goals. In fact, recruiters consider it the most important section of your profile, according to LinkedIn.

Use it to talk about your experience, motivations, interests and skills.

Use a Good, Professional Photo

Profiles that include a clear photo are much more likely to be viewed than those without one.

According to LinkedIn, a profile with a photo is nine times more likely to receive connection requests and messages.

Add Your Location

Lots of recruiters screen by location, they want people who are close to the jobs. By adding your city or country, you will boost your chances of being seen.

Create a Strong Headline

You have 120 characters under your name on your profile to sell yourself. If you can, don’t just mention your job title but show how you solve a problem.

Always Include Your Educational Background

By adding your school, college or university, hiring managers and former classmates are more likely to find you in searches.

Profiles with completed education fields receive 17 times more messages from recruiters.

List the Industry You Work In

To come up in relevant searches, you need to list the type of industry you work in, or the one you’d like to start working in.

It also helps LinkedIn connect you with the right job listings, events and trending articles.

LinkedIn

List Your Current Position

Having an outdated profile can put recruiters off. They might think you haven’t updated your page, you aren’t active on the site and wouldn’t return their messages.

Updating your page is quick and easy to do, and it’s a great way to show your professional trajectory. Be sure to include your current title, company and start date.

Don’t Forget to List Your Skills

Employers are looking for people with skills, so listing as many as you can is a big help. According to LinkedIn, you should include five or more skills to showcase your different talents.

Endorse Some of Your Connections

If you endorse some of your connections, more often than not you will return the favour.

If your top skills start rising in endorsements your visibility will also start to improve.

Join a Networking Group

Joining relevant industry groups on LinkedIn is a great way to showcase your expertise. Recruiters will often search groups looking for strong candidates – show them you are one by proving thoughtful answers and comments.

Spelling and Grammar Check

Always check your writing for spelling and grammar errors, if a recruiter spots a mistake, they are more likely to move on to someone else.

Working for Signature Living

Signature careers

Signature Living is one of the top companies in Liverpool to work for, whether it’s surrounding hospitality, events or even marketing.

We’re always in search of fresh new talent to join our team.

Signature Living is renowned for amazing venues such as Signature Living apartments, The Shankly Hotel and 30 James Street.

Whether it’s hospitality, marketing or construction, make sure you check out our current job vacancies in Liverpool to take the next step in your career.

We hope to hear from you soon!

job search help

Cover Letter Mistakes You Should Avoid

It’s the first thing your employer will see and the perfect opportunity to showcase your talent, and yet cover letter mistakes are very common.

An effective cover letter can prove that you write well, think clearly and possess the qualities you need to succeed in the job.

To give you a helping hand, we’ve put together some of the most common cover letter mistakes that you should always try to avoid when applying for a new job.

Starting with Your Name

‘My name is John Smith and I want this job because…’ – this is a big no in the job world.

You should write your cover letter as if it was a real letter, the sign off will tell them your name, plus it should be on the top of your resume anyway.

What you Should do:  Always start with a relevant qualification that sells your talents to your potential employer.

So, maybe you’re a recent graduate with a passion for computer programming, tell them. Or, perhaps you’re a marketing professional with over 5 years’ experience in the industry, introduce yourself that way and tell them how it relates to the job you’re applying for.

Lack of Attention to Detail

This is probably one of the most important cover letter mistakes you should avoid.

Submitting a letter with grammar and/or spelling errors is a sure way to get screened out straight away. It shows you don’t have attention to detail and have probably rushed the application process.

You should always check facts such as the employers name, the exact job title and if you refer to the company, make sure you spell it correctly.

What You Should Do: Always use the spelling and grammar checking tools on your computer to identify some of the mistakes, but never just rely on that. Check back through and read it out loud to yourself, to make sure it flows well.

Lastly, always get someone else to proof it for you before submitting your application, a fresh pair of eyes will always pick up on mistakes you’ve missed.

Rehashing Your Resume

Your cover letter should never contain exactly the same information as your resume. It’s the first thing your potential employer will see, therefore you need to really sell your best attributes in a short and concise way.

What you Should do: Focus on two or three examples of your previous work or experience. By giving a bigger picture about how you achieved the skills you have, it will help your employer to understand more about you and how you would fit in their team.

Too Short or too Long

There are sometimes exceptions to the rule, but in general, cover letters shouldn’t go over a page and should usually fill that page. Employers won’t have time to read pages and pages, so you need to make it easy for them to pick out the main attributes and skills you possess.

What You Should Do: Always keep a cover letter concise and wrap it up after around 3 paragraphs. Remember, you don’t need to tell them everything you’ve ever done, just the best snippets to convince them to invite you to an interview.

Highlighting Inexperience

It’s easy to feel vulnerable when applying for a job, especially if you feel that your skills don’t exactly match the specifications. However, starting off a cover letter by underselling yourself or drawing attention to the skills or knowledge you are lacking is never the way to go.

What You Should Do: Be confident and always emphasise the skills you do have, rather than highlighting things you don’t know. You need to impress your employer, not show them your weaknesses.

Sending a Generic Letter

One of the most common cover letter mistakes is to send a generic copy to a range of different job titles. Employers can tell a mile of if you’ve just written one letter and sent it to everyone.

What you Should Do: A good cover letter will be tailored to the specific job you are applying for. Carefully read the job specification and try to refer to most of the points and how your skills will help you to excel in that particular job.

Over Sharing or Over Explaining

There is some information that you don’t need to include in your cover letter. You never need to explain why you want to leave your current job, or why you were let go from a previous employer. There is also no need to include personal details, such as relationship or illness, the recruiter doesn’t need to know this information.

What you Should Do: Your potential employer is looking for details about what you can offer them and how you will fit into their company, so always explain this rather than looking back to the past. Always steer clear of negativity towards a previous employer or job.

Going off Brand

Think of your cover letter as your sales pitch to your future employer. It’s the introduction to your resume, so make sure your cover letter matches up with it in terms of font, design and colour palette. Probably more important for creative jobs, but doing this still shows potential bosses that you’re consistent and have a creative side.

What you Should Do: Make sure your cover letter and resume match up, in terms of design and presentation. It should have the same header as your resume, the same font and size, plus always check the contact information is consistent.

Not Providing Concrete Examples

Expressing empty opinions about your strengths will generally not convince employers about your suitability for the job. You need to back up your skills with clear examples from previous jobs or training.

What you Should Do: Back up your statements by referencing a job or role where you successfully employed that strength. For example, instead of simply stating ‘I possess strong writing skills and an outstanding work ethic.’  Use an example – ‘Strong writing skills enabled me to revise a proposal and secure £10,000 in additional funding from the Jones Foundation.’

Don’t Skip It

Last but not least, if your employer asks for a cover letter, or even if they don’t, never skip it. The only reason you shouldn’t provide a cover letter is if they explicably ask you not to provide one.

A cover letter doesn’t have to be complicated, but you must include one.

Working for Signature Living

Signature careers

Signature Living is one of the top companies in Liverpool to work for, whether it’s surrounding hospitality, events or even marketing.

We’re always in search of fresh new talent to join our team.

Signature Living is renowned for amazing venues such as Signature Living apartments, The Shankly Hotel and 30 James Street.

Whether it’s hospitality, marketing or construction, make sure you check out our current job vacancies in Liverpool to take the next step in your career.

We hope to hear from you soon!

Christmas Jobs Liverpool: Join Santa’s Team of Elves!

This Christmas, we’re in search of a festive bunch filled with Christmas cheer to work in Santa’s team of elves!

If the thought of the yuletide season leaves you feeling merry and bright, you could be just the person we’re looking for.

Over the festive period, you’ll be based in the iconic Cunard Building. The stunning venue is one of the world famous Three Graces along the Liverpool waterfront.

This is set to be one of the most exciting Christmas jobs in Liverpool. So as Buddy the Elf would say, don’t be a cotton-headed ninny-muggins!

Christmas Jobs Liverpool: Become one of Santa’s Elves

This year, we’re creating the most spectacular winter wonderland within The Cunard Building.

Spreading a sprinkle of Signature magic around the waterfront venue, we’ll be hosting the most fantastic grotto and Christmas experience.

It’s a busy time of the year for Father Christmas, so he’s looking for a talented team to fill all departments.

After all, he can’t run the show by himself. With so much to do and so many children to see, you’ll play an integral role in the festivities.

As one of Santa’s helpers, you could spend your time handing out festive gifts and spreading joy.

You may also be in charge of guiding our little guests to Mary Christmas, who will be telling enchanting stories.

And for those that are fond of a Christmas tune, you could showcase your best elf talents on Santa’s stage.

All Santa requires you to bring along is plenty of confidence, great communication skills and sleighs full of Christmas cheer.

The Cunard Building

This is a fantastic opportunity to gain experience working in one of the most iconic buildings in Liverpool.

The Grade II* listed building is located at the Pier Head. You’ll find it neighbouring the Liverpool Liver Building and the Port of Liverpool Building.

At the Cunard, you’ll be based in the heart of the city centre, with the most famous attractions right on your doorstep.

With the Christmas markets along the Pier Head, you’ll have plenty of to see and do in between your working hours.

This fantastic venue radiates history, charm and character that can’t be found elsewhere.

What better spot to spend Christmas in a winter wonderland?

Signature Living

Signature Living is one of the top companies in Liverpool to work for, whether it’s surrounding hospitality, events or even marketing.

Since 2007, we’ve successfully revolutionised the accommodation market. And we’re renowned for hosting exquisite events.

With luxury hotels, bars and restaurants dotted around the city, we’re always busy creating more local jobs in Liverpool.

We’re the brains behind leading Liverpool venues including Signature Living apartments, The Shankly Hotel and 30 James Street Hotel.

Our dynamic bars and restaurants include The Bastion Bar & Restaurant, Carpathia Champagne Bar & Restaurant and Vista.

Apply to Join Santa’s Team

So, if you think you could be just the elf we’re looking for, we’d love to hear from you.

You can let us know why you’d be the perfect addition to Santa’s team by contacting tom.barrie@signatureliving.co.uk.

The first Santa’s helpers workshop will commence on Saturday 30th September at the Cunard Building from 10:00am.

We look forward to seeing you there!