A mobile welfare unit for the homeless will be hitting Leeds streets this week, providing basic needs for the city’s most vulnerable, seven days a week.
Leeds businessman Glen Crosthwaite brought the idea to long standing friend and fellow homelessness campaigner Hayden Lee who together have made this a reality.
The refurbished welfare unit has been donated by multi-service provider Servo Group, and the initiative is been put together by Leeds charity, Vulnerable Citizen Support headed up by Glen and Hayden. The welfare unit will provide free access to washing and sanitation facilities, hot food and drinks and a safe, accessible place to meet and chat. It will also serve as somewhere that homeless people can fill in paperwork and get help from Vulnerable Citizen Support with accessing support and referrals. Local hairdresser, Gaynor Horner, has offered to provide free haircuts and Lush and Morrisons have agreed to donate products to stock the unit and make food donations with many more pledges on a daily basis.
Glen Crosthwaite said: “It’s all about getting self-esteem back and providing somewhere to carry out simple tasks to help people get back on their feet. For the hundreds of people sleeping rough in Leeds, it’s really difficult to find somewhere to wash or to sit down and chat and get a hot drink in the cold. It’s impossible to access a haircut or find somewhere to fill out paperwork that needs to be completed to have a chance of getting out of the spiral. Basic things like this that everybody takes for granted are important for building self-esteem and getting people back on their feet.
The welfare unit will be out on the streets seven days a week, 365 days a year from next week. Eventually, Vulnerable Citizen Support and Servo hope to get two or three units out there in Leeds and then move on to other cities.
Lee went onto say: “There are lots of organisations out there doing great work with the homeless in Leeds but this is about helping the people who are slipping through the net for support, and giving them access to instant help, without all the red tape, that might help them take a few simple steps towards rebuilding their lives. When you’re in this vulnerable position, it’s hard to access immediate support, even to fill in forms and access referrals, and homelessness can happen to anyone - circumstances can change in the blink of an eye.” Both myself and Glen are only too aware of this.
The group is interested in hearing from anyone else who can help either by donating products or services or even by just spreading awareness – it has a storage unit to store any donated items. Its also looking for voluntary drivers for the unit and is interested in hearing from people interested in a more permanent role too. The welfare unit is on track to be out on the streets by next week and its services will be accessible to anyone who is homeless, free of charge, as a drop-in service. They are totally self-funded so all donations will be very well received.
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