800 to the power of three. 

 We walked up to get our weekly coffee in high spirits tonight. We met lots of new faces and felt as though we had made some impact. 

What a difference five minutes can make. And with this comes a different kind of blog this week. It’s not a piece that reflects on the weather, nor does it skim over the people we’ve met, telling snippets of stories. 

Tonight we dedicate this blog to our pregnant couple. Tonight we dedicate it to Jodie and Dean. 

We thought, in the nicest possible way, we’d seen the back of them. But any sense of hope we had talked about in previous blogs disappeared tonight. 

Sat having a drink and reflecting on the night, we heard a familiar voice. Cue Dean. Stood at the end of our table wearing that usual cheeky grin. We invited them to join us. And so, with the heaviest heart of all, the story begins. 

Jodie and Dean found housing, of sorts. But it fell through. So they were back to square one. A lamppost for a bed side light, stars for a roof and eachother arms for warmth. They’d managed since to get a few nights here and there in accommodation. But every day hung on how much money they could find. Whether or not a pregnant girl slept on the streets or in a bed rested purely on the kindness of strangers. 

They spoke of their childhoods, their past, their dreams and aspirations. Dean is full of life, he has a will to get on and provide for his partner, and the life growing inside her. He’s skilled, he worked as a plasterer until the accident. He fell from scaffolding, with an employer who had no insurance, he lost his job, and lost everything.

They’ve both fallen on hard times in their lives, and genuinely not because of their choices, but the choices of those around them, those who’s job it was to care and provide for them, and at the very least keep them from harm. They then had to bury their tiny son, what parent should ever have to do that? And now, as their unborn child grows and gets ready to make its debut, Dean has just one wish, “I just want the chance to be a good dad”. Silence fell. My lip began to tremble, eyes filling up. I looked around the table, I wasn’t the only one. 

Finally someone spoke, asking what they needed to get a place of their own, without having to sit on an eternal waiting list. Turns out, the council will pay the bond and the rent, but they would have to pay the first months rent and the credit checks. All in all, around £800 tops. Which they obviously don’t have. 

It seems impossible, yet so simple. £800 will give them the start, the first step in writing a very different story. Think of the possibilities that would provide. With Jodie and their unborn child safe, Dean could start looking for work, they could start build a life and live their forever. I sat wishing I had the money. We all sat wishing we had the money. 

£800 stands between ‘accommodation’ or a home. £800 stands between an existence or a future. £800 stands between a family yearning to succeed, or a family potentially set to be destroyed and torn apart. They’ve already lost one child. £800 says they could lose another. Imagine as a parent having to face even the thought of that. It’s a painful and unthinkable notion.

Tonight will be one of those nights we never forget. It will be one of those nights that will never be far from our thoughts. Tonight will be one of those nights that will make us meet up during the week to try to find a way to help them, to give them the break they so desperately need. 

So tonight we dedicate our blog to Jodie and Dean. Our promise to you is that we will do everything we can to give you the opportunity to be the mummy and daddy you long to be, that you deserve to be. 

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One degree until bedtime. 

  

One person with one idea one evening. That one idea lead to one project to make a difference. Even if to just one person.

One house filled with donations. Piled high thanks to one city that holds some of the most generous people we have ever been blessed to be able to reach out to. One person who is kind enough to donate. That one person, possibly you reading this right now. Without you, we have nothing. Zero. 

One day a week. Nothing. A small piece of our lives to try to reach out to somebody less fortunate than ourselves. 

One chance to meet somebody who could use a little help, by coincidence or fate. One chance to give food and clothing to get dry for a little while. One pair of socks, one less chance of catching a cold. One coat for warmth and for comfort. One sandwich, one less reason to rifle through a bin. One sleeping bag, one reason to make the night seem a little less lonely, maybe. One conversation to make somebody feel like they matter. 

One more Sunday hitting the streets, one more chance that we might be blessed enough to make a new friend. 

One more bitterly cold evening, tonight covered in a blanket of snow with no sign that winter is leaving anytime soon. 

When the temperatures drops to zero degrees, the churches open their doors for the homeless to sleep in at night. 

Tonight was one degree. 

Just one degree would have changed everything. Just one degree of difference. 
 

Once upon a time.

If we thought it had been cold on our previous outings, it paled in comparison to Sunday. We woke up to snow gently falling and sitting quietly on the surface it chose, quietly contemplating whether to stay or go. All day we had commented how cold it had dropped. Still, we weren’t quite prepared for such a chill. The cold snatched our breath, forming clouds that danced around us casting shadows with the help of the street lights.

We packed up and set off in good time. Last week our friends had settled down for the night earlier than previous nights. As the cold weather punishes, the sensible thing to do is to find shelter and try to maintain the little body heat that the ice cold hasn’t yet stolen.

We took to the side of the Alhambra, taking our usual route, to the usual places where we meet and share donations. The panto had just finished and we managed to get a couple of celebrity endorsements! They were keen to hear what we were doing, and so we happily shared our story. Who knows, maybe they will share it, and maybe other people will feel like they too can make a difference.

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We saw quite a few of our usual friends, huddled up in blankets in doorways desperately trying to maintain some sort of heat. It seemed our offerings of food and hot chocolate was welcomed more than any night before.

We met a new friend. A young man from Lithuania who sat in a doorway so he could access the free wifi. He sat there each day so he could contact his sister back in his homeland. He had come here to work but had fallen on hard times and now had nowhere to lay his head, nor did he have the money to get home. To get any help from the government or council he had been told he needed a residency order. But he couldn’t get one. Imagine actually having no choice, no way to help yourself, no way home. Imagine being completely lost in the world. How must that even feel?

We spent quite a bit of time with Paul and Lady. She was snug as a bug in a rug! Tucked up in blankets and a coat, toasty warm. Paul, as usual putting his beloved dog before himself. He said thank you to us for sharing the donations and giving them food and drink. He said Lady couldn’t speak, so he would speak for her. As he said that the most wonderful thing happened. Lady got up from her warm and safe bed and came over to each of us, giving a little lick on the hand and allowing us to give her a pat. It was as if she was saying, “don’t you worry, I can speak for myself!” She was once so nervous at our presence, but now she completely trusted us and was happy to be our friend.

Paul had a friend alongside him. It was the first time we had seen him. It turned out he was new to the streets. We can’t go in to details as his situation is with solicitors and we don’t want to  jeopardise anything where that is concerned. But it left us completely sickened. When did we as humans stop caring? When did empathy sit so low on the list that is became an after thought? Money may make the world go round, but it doesn’t make your heart smile and it doesn’t gently take you in it’s arms at the end of a bad day and make your heart warm. It reminded us of just how quickly life can change, that life is precious and we should never take anything for granted.

There was no appearance of Woody. We looked forward to seeing him, we always walked away from our conversations smiling and honestly believing that no matter what your circumstances, there is always time to feel thankful for what you have, and of course, always time to smile.

For about the third week we haven’t seen the pregnant couple. We all genuinely feel full of hope that they are settled, warm and safe as they prepare for their new life, and their new family. Maybe happy endings do happen after all. Maybe fairytales aren’t just a thing we can only dream of…

Wrap yourselves in love people. And don’t ever stop.

As always, if you wish to find out how you can donate, you can find us on Facebook at Project winter coat. Or contact us at projectwintercoat@outlook.com