Last week I went along to a local charity called Two Saints, which helps people who are homeless by providing a variety of services and support. I was there to find out more about volunteering, but I confess that part of me was just curious to see what their day centre (the hub of the organisation) was like, having heard about it before.
On my arrival at the day centre, I was given a tour of the premises and further information about the services Two Saints provide for the people who come there. These include basics like mobile phone charging, laundry, showers, a clothing store, access to GPs, housing and debt advice and help with job searches/CV writing. The centre also does a simple breakfast and a cooked lunch (for a nominal charge), with hot drinks available throughout the day. I felt like I was back at Crisis Christmas, but on a far smaller scale.
It was good to get an idea of what life at the day centre is like, and to hear about how I could get involved if I volunteered there. After a few Christmases with Crisis and a year at my local food bank, I feel like I’m ready for a new challenge and would like to take the experience I’ve already got working with homeless people further. Surprisingly, Two Saints only has a handful of volunteers at its day centre; fingers crossed I’ll be able to join the small team very soon!
A while back I wrote about how a group of American students had been tasked with designing shelters for rough sleepers, and I recently found out about the funky and awesome cardboard Cardborigami hut…
You probably get the idea from the pictures above, but as their website explains, Cardborigami is
A fold-able shelter that provides instant privacy and weather protection for those who have none. These shelters are water-resistant, flame-retardant and recyclable. The shelter itself is sustainable because it is manufactured locally and, after the life of the shelter, can be easily recycled.
There’s more about how Cardborigami’s designer, Tina Hovsepian, came up with the concept and why she believes it’s important for homeless people to have access to shelter and privacy, as well as food and clothing, here.
A not-for-profit company in Australia has started a mobile laundry service for people who are homeless. Using two washing machines and two dryers, Orange Sky are able to clean clothes for around ten people an hour. My favourite aspect of this invaluable service is that Orange Sky work alongside organisations which provide food to local homeless people, so that their clothes can be washed while they eat.
Meanwhile, back in England, Timpsons recently announced they will provide free dry cleaning for anyone who is unemployed and needs their clothes cleaned to attend an interview.
You can read more about why Timpsons have chosen to offer this service here, as well as the reasons why the firm is one of the few UK employers to recruit ex-convicts here.
Recently I mentioned that I was behind with my blog posts… Well, I’m still playing catch up! Christmas already seems like months ago, but I wanted to share Crisis’ official Christmas 2014 video, which gives a flavour of the impact the project has on the homeless guests who visit centres in London, Newcastle and Edinburgh.
After volunteering in the kitchen this year, one guest’s description of the food he’d eaten at Crisis being ‘excellent’ made me smile (although this video wasn’t filmed at my centre, so I can’t really take any credit!).
Four years ago when I signed up for my first Crisis Christmas, one of the things I was most apprehensive about was speaking to the homeless guests I was going to come into contact with. What do you talk about to somebody who is homeless? I wondered. Not long into my first shift, my apprehension faded. What you talk about to people who are homeless are exactly the same topics you talk to anyone about: sport, the weather, work, hobbies, news, family. My biggest lesson that first year was that while Crisis’ guests need food, clothes and a shower, for so many of them the opportunity to just chat to somebody is equally important to them.
This makes complete sense, given how society marginalises those experiencing homelessness. A week at a Crisis centre over Christmas may be the only time in the year the guests are treated with respect, made to feel like members of a community, and receive genuine smiles rather than vacant stares. Crisis Christmas is good at providing the support and services guests may need to help them make changes and move forward in their lives. But I know the seemingly insignificant ‘acts of caring’ given by the volunteers also have the potential to make a real difference to how the guests feel about themselves and society at large.