The founders of Friends of Essex and London Homeless charity received a fantastic surprise when West Ham United captain Mark Noble called them, as part of the Players’ Project, to thank them for the help they are providing people across the local area.
There are thousands of homeless people across London and Essex and the volunteer led charity has been delivering various items, such as clothing, sleeping bags and food to homeless people and rough sleepers in Charing Cross and Grays every week.
The family decided to set up the charity after offering to help someone on a Rainham community page who needed a volunteer with a vehicle to take sleeping bags into London. Having been shocked by the stories of the service users they met, the family felt they wanted to do more.
“It’s been a four-year journey for us and the last year has been extremely testing for everybody. What we’re finding now is that the poverty lines are sort of crossing over and we’re getting a lot of COVID-19 poverty, so we are getting a lot of people in our queues now that we may not have been seeing a year or two years ago,” said co-founder Steven.
Noble commented: “It’s incredible - the amount of people’s lives you’ve changed - the last year we’ve had probably one of the worst situations in our history. How did you manage to get everything out during the Christmas period and lockdowns and everything?”
Steven replied: “It was really, really difficult. We’ve got quite a robust system in place as to how we operate because we operate out of my mum’s garage and so it is difficult. But we’ve got five ladies who prepare all of the dinners for us, we have someone who allocates all of the food to them when we get the food in.
"We managed to get everyone a Christmas dinner, mince pie and custard, selection box and a rucksack with a load of goodies as well. We do a food bank on a Friday in Grays too - there’s a lot of families who come there - and there are three or four children who come with their mums in pushchairs. One of the ladies broke down crying because she couldn’t believe that we had thought to give her child that hamper - we had spoken to her before and she didn’t know what she was going to do on Christmas morning and how was she going to explain to her child that Father Christmas hadn’t turned up, and so for us to give her that, she just broke down crying.
“Through COVID-19 we’ve had to put a lot of things in place. It’s a constant battle and we’re out there one way or another and the fact that we come under the volunteer bracket with the government we’re able to be out there.”
Across the pandemic the Club has been continuing to respond to local need and recently the West Ham United Foundation has been connecting with Friends of Essex and London homeless to direct food to their service users.
Noble praised everybody involved in the organisation, saying: “You should be so proud of yourself. It’s tough times for everyone and to hear what you’ve done over the last year or so, especially with the lockdown, you should be very proud.”
To find out more about how you can support Friends of Essex and London Homeless visit their website: www.foelh.com.