A group of volunteers quietly and consistently reaching out to homeless people in our town, providing necessities and support.
For over two years now, every Wednesday (and that is EVERY Wednesday) at about 7:45pm a small group of volunteers gather in front of The Entertainer toy shop. If you haven't happened to walk past at this time, or stumbled upon their Facebook page, you would never know about the amazing, generous and much-needed work they carry out.
Katie, her mum, Julia, Christina, and a few other core members solicit, collect, sort, organise, store and then distribute warm clothes, tents and sleeping bags, toiletries and long-life food to the estimated 40-50 people sleeping rough in our town's streets and public spaces.
They have come to know many of the people they serve and the stories they tell are dreadful - men who have lost toes from frostbite, women who struggle every month with no access to sanitary products or means of keeping clean, people of all ages who have had what little they have stolen from them, who have been kicked, punched and spat on, for the sin of being without a home.
The group not only gives out goods, but offers chat and friendship, assistance to allow people to access health assessments, cleans and makes welcoming accomodation when it is found - they've even warmed people up who have been sleeping in the snow and very likely saved lives.
The Helping People In Need In Colchester team aren't housing experts, politicians or activists - just a group of people doing as much as they can to help people less fortunate than themselves, and make their lives just a little more bearable. They truly deserve our support. However, says Katie, while donations and goodwill abounded around Christmas time, unfortunately, at the coldest time of the year after the holidays, when it is needed most, generosity seems to nosedive.
If you can help, please bear in mind the group know their users, therefore the list of items they need are specific, and storage is limited. However if you have, or would like to purchase any of the following to donate, please get in touch with Katie or Cristina via their Facebook group:
- Sleeping bags
- Sleeping mats
- Bivvy bags
- Underwear - men's and women's
- Shower gel - men's and women's
- Deodorant - men's and women's
- Socks, especially thermal ones
- Trainers/Warm shoes
- T shirts
- Jogging bottoms
- Jeans (Sizes 28, 30 and 32 are most needed)
- Long life food
- Dog food
Equally, if you can donate time to help with the sorting or can drive and would be able to ferry items to and fro, the group would love to hear from you.
And even if you can do none of those things, Katie's message to Colcestrians is simple - be kind, be courteous. Buy a homeless person a coffee, or buy a Big Issue from them; even just give a smile and a nod. Small kindnesses can make all the difference.