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. 

Advertisements

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.

blog image jan2016.jpg

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

A time to survive.

Jack grew up in care from eight years old. Jack was pretty much failed by his mother, then the system, then his mother again. Jack thinks it is him that, and I quote, “is a f*ck up”. We think Jack is one of the most genuine people we have met on our journey.

Jack survives. 

Jack went to Niche for his Christmas dinner and was kitted out with lots of clothes. Jack hid the clothes, as they all do, along with another man. Jack left the building 20 minutes after the other guy. The other guy walked at the other side of the street and hurried on by carrying a black bin liner. That black bin liner contained the things he had been given, plus Jack’s hidden belongings. 

The other guy survives. 

Woody never got any help for housing since the ‘arches evictions’. Since he was given ten minutes to move what he could and his world was thrown on the back of a council van, tip bound. Woody sleeps elsewhere now. Tonight Woody strutted across the street with the new clothes we gave him. Like Superman he reappeared from the phone box with fresh threads on. His spirits high once again, a far cry from the shadow of his former self we saw last week. No longer did he see no way out, but was once again hopeful and full of his contagious charisma. Woody does what he has to, to get by. And for that, although we don’t really want to know about it, we admire his determination. 

Woody survives. 

Tonight we thought we had found a body in a deep dark corner of the city. In a place tucked away, a place damp and cold, like something from a film. The kind of film that sees you hiding behind a cushion, or the kind where your hands, without knowing, crawl up to protect your eyes. Where curiosity pulls your fingers apart, and you don’t want to but you can’t help but look. Our hearts hit our throats with a clatter. We stood motionless for what felt like forever. That body turned out to be nothing but a folded duvet and a trick of the eye caused by the haunting light in the deep dark corner, hidden in our beautiful city. That was someone’s home for the night. 

Hopefully they survive. 

The man who showed us the ulcers on his leg. Struggling to pull his rain drenched jeans above the swelling on his ankle. Revealing skin so infected we stood in shock at how he genuinely was still walking around. We implored him to go to the hospital, to get any sort of help. With infection so bad the reality is that he could become really sick.

The man may not survive. 

Our pregnant couple were nowhere to be seen tonight. They didn’t come and find us, they weren’t hiding in any of the usual shadows. We can only hope one of the viewings they went to see this week turned out to be successful. We were somewhat sad we hadn’t seen them, worried of their fate. But hopeful that maybe, just maybe, they were sat in their new home preparing for the next chapter in their lives. 

Maybe they’ve survived. 

Maybe their unborn child will survive too. 

We realised tonight, it’s not actually homelessness that bothers people. As long as it’s out of sight. Because if you can’t see it, it isn’t real. Right? 

But what we know is that is doesn’t matter how tightly you close your eyes, or your mind, it takes nothing away. Homelessness is everywhere. Moving them on and pushing these people to the dark corners of the city where even shadows daren’t go only serves to ease the conscience of our local authorities in their plight to improve the image of our city. 

And so we will continue to go out every week to help our friends survive. For no other reason than to try to make a difference, no matter how small. We will continue to take food, hot drinks, clothes and hope. And we will shine lights on those deep dark corners of the city so the shadows dare to dance. And we will more than likely dance with them, probably hand in hand. Let’s not allow the people of the streets to be shadows anymore. Let’s tackle this head on. 

Let the shadows survive. After all, that’s what we all try and do. Survive. Don’t we?

Take a moment to think about it. What would you do to survive?

#wrapyourselfinlove and gloves

  
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again. Homelessness is everywhere, and it can happen at any time, for many reasons. A loss of job, a divorce, a broken childhood, a broken dream. The more we venture out, the more we see just how easy it can be. 

We meet the most wonderful people when we are out. Characters so full of life, full of gusto. You can’t help but wonder how some of them came to be in the circumstances they are. It makes it all too real that actually it could so easily be us, or you. One choice, one decision, one step in the wrong direction. It really is, quite simply, as easy as that.

The first time we went out, we found it difficult to get people’s attention. They thought there would be no way we would speak to them. The second time we found that word had got round a little, we exchanged pleasantries, they talked a little. This week we found that people were looking forward to seeing us, and were much more relaxed standing and talking to us, sharing stories, some heart breaking, some hopeful. Now they see us as people, just like them. Now they ask our names.

We don’t proclaim to be trying to end homelessness, not by any stretch. We just want to make things easier. We try to put ourselves in their shoes. It’s cold, and it’s windy, winter is grabbing hold with no sense of regard. There are floods in and around our beautiful county, but we can go home, batten down the hatches, protect ourselves and our loved ones to the best of our ability. Imagine being exposed to the ice on the ground, and the chill in the air. When you’re at home, trying to get warm; nice cup of tea and extra thick socks. They’re on the street trying to find a dry patch of ground, blowing into their hands, anything just to make it through another night. In its simplest terms, imagine actually not having a roof over your head. Imagine not having the basic things that we take for granted. And it’s because of this being at the forefront of our minds, that we choose to do this. 

Tonight, one of the guys we met asked us why we do what we are doing. The simple answer is, because we can.

With the twists and turns and turbulent times in our world, we now realise that one small act of kindness can mean so much. There doesn’t have to be a motive. It is possible that love can exist, and be passed on to others. 

Thank you so so much for all the time you’ve taken to sort your belongings and drop them off. Please keep the donations coming. Without you, this project is absolutely nothing. 

If you would like to find out where you can drop donations, please message us via our Facebook page by searching, project winter coat or email us on projectwintercoat@outlook.com

We end tonight with the words of our new pal Lightening, “Too-da-loo”.

A moment to last forever. 

Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier. 

Mother Teresa 

We headed out a little later this week. We figured we might get the chance to meet more people if they were settling down in their spots for the night.

We weren’t wrong. We had been out only a few minutes and two chaps approached us, “you’re the guys helping us out aren’t you?” We quite literally couldn’t believe it. Word had got around quickly. We also armed ourselves with chocolate bars and socks that had kindly been donated, even a couple of sleeping bags. These proved hugely useful. 

If we thought last week was cold, we had a shock this week. The wind howled through buildings, the damp air wrapped around us, that ‘cold to the bone’ sort of feeling. But that said, we wouldn’t be sleeping in the thick of it tonight like the people we met.

  
We met some real characters tonight. Some telling us tales of their misfortune, others much quieter, but each and every one sending us on our way with a thank you, and a smile. And then there was a truly beautiful moment, as we turned the corner, one guy turned to his pal, thinking we were out of ear shot and said ‘oh wow’ with such excitement in his voice. It was such an emotional moment that will last with us for a long long time, possibly forever. 

What is great is that we are learning more every time we go out. We are finding out where to go, creating meeting points to give donations, and meeting some great characters. But more importantly our eyes are being opened to what life is like for people living on the streets, and how we can help, no matter how small. Any difference is better than no difference at all. 

We walked away tonight having distributed all the wonderful donations we had. Now we need more! Yet again, every single person who donated has helped to wrap someone in love. And to you we say thank you on behalf of everybody we had the privilege of meeting tonight. 

Please keep your donations coming. Particularly men’s coats, gloves, scarves and hats. We are clean out!

Thank you all from Project_WinterCoat. 

Ready for the second run

  
Today we are sorting through a whole heap of coats ahead of tonight’s outing. It’s so wonderful and humbling as we sort through them. To think people have taken the time out of their busy lives to not just sift through their belongings, but also go out of their way to bring them to our designated drop off point. 
Thank you so much from all of us at Project_Winter Coat. Without you this idea would have stayed just that. You are the people who make a difference. 

On days like today as the wind rips through buildings, taking the rain along with it for the ride, we realise that we all can make a difference. No matter how big or small we think it might be. 

#wrapyourselfinlove

Wherever I lay my coat, that’s my home.

Sat back in the comfort of our homes, warm drink in hand, TV chatting away in the background, but all feeling very different.

P_WC_image_001.jpg

Our first outing was a chilly one. It served to bring home the real truth of why we were trawling the streets. It was ok for us. By the end of the night, our skin would warm up with a tingle stirring memories from childhood of coming home after sledging to a hot chocolate and a cuddle from mum. The feeling would come back in the tips of our fingers, once wrapped around a hot comforting cup of tea. The cold that had run through our bones would thaw when curled up in the duvets of our cosy safe beds.

But for those sleeping in doorways seeking refuge, they wouldn’t have that luxury. They wouldn’t be so lucky. So we went with one intention. If we could give at the very least one coat to somebody who would benefit it, our evening would have been successful.

And that we did. And we talked to people, each in very different situations to ourselves. And you could say that they got something from our ‘little outing’ tonight. And you’d be right. But we got something too. We got the chance to meet genuine and lovely people, who spoke to us openly and who took our offering as kindness, not pity. It was at times upsetting when we approached people, as they cowered, head down, seemingly expecting harassment of some kind. Or the countless times we tried to get their attention because they clearly believed there would be no reason at all that we would want to talk to them. As we headed home we all believed that we got far more from them than they did from us.

Tonight we realised that homelessness can happen for many many reasons. So look around you. Homelessness is everywhere. It’s sat next to you on the bus, it’s ordering a coffee in front of you and walking beside you in the street. And it can effect anyone at any time.

P_WC_image_002.jpg

So to those who donated, we echo our earlier blog when we say thank you. You made a difference. Tonight somebody will sleep a little warmer, maybe even feel a little safer just to be snuggled up that bit more.

Tonight you wrapped someone in love. Feel good?

If you’d like to donate please contact projectwintercoat@outlook.com or find us on facebook at project winter coat