In the run up to Christmas, Dani (Editor) & Inna (Finance Manager) from Nottingham Local News and Carl from Nottingham Host Families teamed up in the city centre on a mission to spread good cheer (and practical resources) to the homeless.
Carl, who runs Nottingham Host Families, got in touch with me recently regarding the homeless work that he does with Nottingham Trent University and The Friary in West Bridgford. Whilst thinking about how we could run this lovely story, I wondered if this was something that we could team up on, being a big believer in kindness and volunteering, I offered to lend him a hand. Upon announcing my plans to assist Carl to my colleagues at the Local News, everyone was eager to donate some food items for me to bring along. My colleague Inna expressed her interest in this great cause and decided to join us too.
It was by joining up with a group of Nottingham Trent University students about 3 years ago, who were studying mental health, that I first started helping the homeless in Nottingham. Each month, on Wednesday evenings we would meet up in the city centre to give out food, clothes, toiletries and other such items that we’d either collected, been donated to us or had purchased ourselves.
People often assume that those sleeping rough on the streets are victims to drugs, alcohol and unemployment but I found although those can be true, mental illness is the biggest issue. From listening to stories told to me by homeless people on some icy cold nights in the city centre, I learned some heart-breaking stories of misfortune and bad luck, broken relationships, lost jobs, redundancies, depression and poor health that led to finding themselves without a roof over their head.
I believe every one of us will at some time of our life face a particular difficulty that we struggle to deal with and get through. I know I have. And the two biggest lessons that I’ve learned are these:
1) Most of us are too proud to ask for help. I now say to people who I see facing a difficulty “Don’t think of yourself as asking for help because you are weak, ask for help because you want to remain strong”
2) Most people, although good intentioned are busy with their own lives and don’t see; to a deep enough level to make a decision to help. And even if they do see, they invariably feel too embarrassed, awkward or inadequate to help. They feel it easier and more comfortable to ignore it, thinking that someone else will stop-by to help.
If you can say to yourself ‘forget embarrassment, forget awkwardness and forget not having been trained for it, just a simple hello, a smile or a cheery word can make a homeless person’s day. Not to put too fine a point on it, a kind word can literally save a life.
And if you don’t know what to say, just hand them a hot drink, a bottle of water, a sandwich, a chocolate bar or a piece of fruit as a practical gesture.
This December we purchased a quantity of Kipbags and decided to team up with Nottingham Local news, taking to the streets to distribute them, along with food, drinks and clothing items. The addition of mince pies and chocolate coins were particularly welcomed as a nice festive touch by those living on the streets.
The food and Kipbags were gratefully received with many a “Merry Christmas” thrown our way. We also donated some of the Kipbags, food and clothe items to The Friary, West Bridgford who do an absolutely wonderful job, led by Ann Bremner who started the service as far back as 1988. They provide a substantial range of support to the homeless which included welcoming 18,000 visits last year and they regularly provide 90-120 meals per day.
Please help if you can. Every little helps:
THE FIARY West Bridgford
Items that they are most in need of: Rucksacks, socks, gloves, joggers and small battery operated radios. Go to https://the-friary.org.uk or call in person with items to donate at 46 Musters Rd, West Bridgford, NG2 7PR
KIPBAG.COM are a non-profit organisation in Staffordshire, founded by Chris Haycock who after leaving the Navy, found himself homeless for a period of time, began producing the Kipbags. Each KipBag contains essential items to keep someone warm and clean. Go to https://kipbag.com
“Life can be unpredictable and uncomfortable, BUT…we all have the power to help make it more predictable and more comfortable”