About Friends of the Homeless
Supporting and helping homeless men and women in Romford and surrounding areas.
It all started back in October 2019, Anthony and I were discussing what we would like to do with our unused clothing and bedding. We first thought, charity shop, but we both agreed that even though they are great places, they wont get to the people who desperately need the items. So I suggested we do what I saw online, we go out and tie coats and scarves to lamp posts with signs stating they are free to a good home. We both agreed it sounded like a very nice idea but the items would just get taken by people who don’t require them and plan to sell on or vandalise. We brainstormed for a bit and then we both agreed, why don’t we take the items out ourselves? That idea made us both jump into action, we started to plan how we would organise this. Are we going to see if anyone would like to help? Should we take food just in case its needed? So many ideas, I started to make a list which my fiancé just laughed at me for as I do enjoy a good list.
We thought the best place to advertise this would be Facebook as its a large platform that can reach people all over the area. We created a group formally Help the Homeless this Winter and started adding friends, Facebook Group. The group boomed and over night we had 50 new members, within weeks we were in the 100s. We decided that this is bigger then just a few coats or ham sandwiches, we have a chance to make a real difference to peoples lives.
We set a date to go out on 6th November 2019 as it gave us a week to get prepared. Throughout that week, we started receiving donations both money and items, it was wonderful to see so many people offer to help. We reached out for items like hot water canisters, food, toiletries and received so much, more then we could store. Our item pile went from a handful of jumpers to half a double bedroom of items, all ready to be handed out.
The first night we went out we were a little nervous but we didn’t let that deter us, we set up a table, sandwiches, biscuits and hot and cold drinks. We even had our first volunteer with us whom we met via Facebook and help from my fiancés sister Sharon Yallop and our nieces Rebekah and Bethany Hughes who when approached to help, jumped at the chance. Our first day was a little quiet but once word spread, we had more and more people every day, it was just amazing to gain their trust and see just how much our hard work had helped.
We now have over 700 members on our Facebook group, a Just Giving, PayPal and an Amazon wish list. We also have just shy of 15 volunteers each week who take time out their busy schedule’s to help. One of our volunteers, his wife is an amazing cook and every Thursday he brings loads of very tasty hot meals that are always gobbled up.
We have made so many friends that when we go out, it’s just like having a catch up with an old friend rather then someone who we are helping. That’s why we decided, this wasn’t a short term thing, we were in this for the long-term and the people we go and see, they are not homeless people to us, they are our friends, so we aptly changed our name to Friends of the Homeless.
We have had so many great laughs since we started, unfortunately due to COVID-19 we had to stop going out but we still keep in touch with as many homeless people as we can to make sure they are okay. One of our volunteers even made it their priority to get one of the last homeless men a place to sleep, he and his partner worked tirelessly and managed to secure housing and we get regular updates from them advising that the guys are doing well.
As much as we wish that the accommodation will be long term, nothing is for certain but what we do know is that, when they need us again, we will be there with our hot tea and friendly smiles.
Becoming a supporter or volunteer for Friends of the Homeless doesn’t have any financial value but the feeling of achievement is far greater. To see someone in the worst position of their life, stand with you, eat a hot meal and do nothing but smile, its an amazing accomplishment that will make you want to come back time and time again.
We have an amazing team of volunteers who spend their time helping and setting up for each evening. Without a second thought, they are there, ready and waiting. Our volunteers are worth their weight in gold, they are happy to give us their time and patience without any compensation, so its crucial to acknowledge their contributions and let them know they are valued.
Whether your a once in a while helper, or there every week, your work and efforts are appreciated not just by us but by every homeless person you help.