Gloucestershire – United Kingdom
THE CONTEXT OF YOUR INITIATIVE
Rough sleepers are marginalised and isolated from access to income and support, especially when they do not have connections with the local area.
Also, no overnight sleeping arrangements are put in place by the authorities unless the temperature falls below minus 3 degrees for 3 consecutive nights.
Emmaus Gloucestershire launched the ‘Operation Backpack’ campaign to help rough sleepers survive in the coldest months of the year and are looking for the local community to get behind them by donating filled rucksacks for distribution to rough sleepers through the Winter.
THE ACTIVITIES CARRIED OUT AS PART OF YOUR INITIATIVE
Emmaus Gloucestershire invited public to take part by creating shop posters, running a social media campaign on Facebook and involving local journalists, running feature articles on the campaign.
Chief Executive, Joe Feeley, says “We are working to end homelessness and enable people to get back on their feet. But for those who face nights on the streets this winter, clean, warm clothes are essential for both dignity and survival – we are inviting members of the public to help directly.”
Emmaus Gloucestershire invited school groups, businesses, scout groups, guiding groups, families, individuals, work groups, groups of friends, to get together and donate rucksacks packed with essentials for living in the open, including thermal socks, gloves, hats, scarves, winter sleeping bags, waterproof sleeping mats.
Filled Backpacks can be dropped off at any Emmaus shop, Monday to Saturday during opening hours, from now till March 2018.
A planned drop off event for “#Operation Backpack” took place on Friday, 1st December from 10am to 9pm at the Stroud Emmaus shop. Everyone could take along his/her backpack – and stick around to enjoy a performance by locally acclaimed Elvis tribute, Joe is Elvis, as part of the Stroud Christmas Goodwill evening.
Shirley Billson, Marketing & Communications Coordinator, explains, “It’s really simple to take part. Grab a rucksack and fill it with the items listed on our Facebook event page. If you buy lots of the items from charity shops, you can extend giving, as well as re-using and recycling in the best possible way.”
She adds, “Though we need many more rucksacks for men, you might want to do a rucksack specifically for a woman -include sanitary towels/cleansing wipes/hairbrush/hairbands/nappy sacks (to dispose of sanitary items), or someone specifically for a person with a dog – include dog food, a chew, a small toy. We also need pyjama packs for people who need hospital stays. Our initial target is 150 backpacks. With your help, we can achieve this.”
Formerly homeless, Emmaus companion Mark, describes how it feels to be on the
receiving end of a backpack, “You go from freezing to feeling ok again. A change of clothes is like changing your soul.”
Joe Feeley enthused “This is a truly collaborative cross county effort. We’re working with other charitable organisations to put the packs together and to distribute them. Pink and Blue Washkits have generously offered to help finalise the packing of the bags and add their own wash kits. Gloucester City Mission and Cirencester Signpost will help distribute to rough sleepers in Gloucester and Cirencester and we are looking to work with other partners to reach each part of the county. If you’re a charitable organisation and you’d like to join the effort, please get in touch.”
He also invites locally based businesses to join in. ”If local businesses are also able to contribute bigger items, such as winter sleeping bags and waterproof sleeping mats, that would help greatly.”
WHO IS INVOLVED FROM OUR GROUP?
4 staff members, 10 companions, the local community.
WHICH PARTNERS ARE YOU WORKING WITH ON THIS INITIATIVE?
Target was to reach 50 backpack donations per month in December, January and February. By December 4th, we had received more than 100.
WOULD YOU LIKE TO ADD ANY INFORMATION ABOUT YOUR INITIATIVE?
WHAT ARE YOUR PROSPECTS?
Partner relationships – for reaching rural communities, companion availability for solidarity initiatives.