Forever and Helping Hands

Every year Warwick District Council reviews homelessness across the county and in their last report they shared that 705 applications were received from people who were applying as homeless...

Out of these applications, only 172 were considered to be fully homeless by the council, but the remaining applicants are likely to be considered ‘at risk’. Trends also show that homelessness in the local area continues to be on the rise with a 58% increase in rough sleepers over the last six years. In fact, according to a local shelter in Leamington, out of the 261 different clients who used the shelter during a twelve-month period, 59 were considered to be sleeping rough.

There is still a bit of stigma linked to homelessness and many assume that rough sleepers are addicts who have ended up on the streets after using their earnings to feed their habit, but it may surprise you to learn that homelessness is not always triggered by drug and alcohol abuse. In fact, only 9% of cases are linked to drugs and alcohol, while the majority of cases, 35%, are due to job loss and unemployment. Other scenarios, all of which are more common than addiction, include people with bills that are higher than earnings, broken relationships, abuse at home, and sickness, disability and mental issues. These statistics suggest that homelessness really could affect anyone at any point!

This issue is certainly a cause for concern which is why Forever UK has decided to partner with local charity Helping Hands, and on 7th September 2017 the charity committee met with Lianne Kirkman, the charity’s director, to find out exactly what Helping Hands is doing to alleviate the issue in Leamington and Warwick, and to discuss how Forever can help out...

WHAT IS HELPING HANDS?

The Helping Hands Community Project started in 2012 in Kenilworth with a Christmas appeal on Facebook which asked for donations for a homeless shelter. The local response was overwhelming and with so much interest and generosity, a project for those less fortunate was conceived.

Helping Hands now works with people in Leamington, Warwick and Kenilworth by providing practical support and care through a range of activities and services. They support low-income individuals and families, victims of domestic abuse, and local homeless and vulnerably-housed people. They aim to provide a hand up through practical support, like the soup kitchen and House2Home project, and also by providing opportunities that increase motivation and self-esteem.

WHAT SERVICES DO HELPING HANDS PROVIDE?

The extent of Helping Hands work truly is inspiring and the impact they are having on the local community is incredible for a charity that is so small and run by just a handful of staff and volunteers. Here is an outline of what they do:

Employability

Often the people Helping Hands supports have a variety of skills, whether they’re highly skilled, graduates or tradespeople, but sadly a difficult situation has led them to lose work, family or their home. Helping Hands helps these people back into work through an employability scheme thanks to support from individuals and local businesses who are able to provide training, e-learning and advice to those in need.

Helping Hands has also created opportunities within its own charity by offering NVQ qualifications in retail and customer service. They are also planning to offer barista training and NVQs in hospitality in the near future.

House2Home

The House2Home project provides furniture, household goods and clothes to recently homed and low-income families that have been referred to the charity by organisations such as children’s centres, social services and domestic violence charities. Families may be re-homed to escape domestic violence or homelessness, sometimes following a relationship breakdown or rehabilitation from addiction. Often people are provided with accommodation but not essentials like a fridge, carpets, soft furnishings and furniture. Helping Hands works to turn empty houses into homes by donating these essential items.

Soup kitchen

Helping Hands inherited the Leamington Soup Kitchen in 2015 and the kitchen is now open three nights a week (Monday 7-9pm, Tuesday 6-7pm and Thursday 6-7pm). A group of volunteers serve warm food, sandwiches, pastries, breads, cakes and fruit whilst they build trusting relationships and provide information about any extra support available. Helping Hands also provide sleeping bags, quilts, clothing, footwear and toiletries to those in need.

Vulnerable women

Many vulnerable women and victims of domestic abuse connect with Helping Hands so the charity has started running activity sessions so that these women can receive respite in a friendly environment which seeks to increase their self-esteem. These sessions take place every Tuesday, 12.30-2.30pm.

Mentoring

The mentoring scheme offered by Helping Hands is still under development but already the charity has partnered with other local organisations in the hope that its clients can connect with people who can encourage, motivate and build self-esteem in individuals who are isolated, vulnerable and lonely. Clients will be matched with vetted and trained volunteers for regular meetings and goal setting for the future.

Charity shop

The Helping Hands charity shop is called The Lighthouse and it’s situated on Gloucester Street in Leamington. They sell pre-loved clothes and household items and the sales provide the charity with essential income. The Lighthouse also acts as a training shop for supported clients who are looking to gain qualifications in NVQ retail and customer service. Clients who are needing clothing are invited to help themselves to items in the shop free of charge.

HOW CAN FOREVER HELP?

Forever UK staff have already managed to raise over £880 for Helping Hands in just five short months! Fundraising initiatives such as raffles, dress down days and bacon butty mornings are just some of the ways Head Office staff have shown their support for the charity, but staff also plan to help practically by volunteering at the charity’s soup kitchen, by getting on board with the charity’s shoebox appeal and by donating items such as clothing and unwanted furniture.

Forever UK would also like to open up our fundraising initiatives to Forever Business Owners who have a heart for the homeless and helping those in need. We would like to thank everyone who purchased a Global Rally mug at September’s Success Express – you helped to raise £306 for the charity – and we will continue to think of fundraising ideas to share with our FBOs in the future.

You may have also noticed a few large glass jars appearing at Longbridge Manor, Titan and in Warwick Product Centre. These jars will be collecting your spare change so that we can easily raise additional funds for Helping Hands, but specifically we plan to use the money to buy sleeping bags for those in immediate need. Sadly, councils and members of the public have a tendency to throw away sleeping bags (in an effort to clean the streets) so the charity are constantly having to buy in new stock!

We hope you agree that the work Helping Hands does is incredible and we are absolutely honoured to partner with such a worthy cause. We will be releasing more information about our partnership and fundraising initiatives as and when available so please keep an eye on the weekly e-newsletters. In the meantime, if you would like to learn more about Helping Hands, please visit helpinghandscharity.org.uk. #ForeverProud