No I in Team Homeless Hope
Hi I’m Mandy Mills, Communications Lead for Homeless Hope. Back in 2018 I was honoured to receive the Powys Stars award in recognition of my fundraising efforts for local charities. In 2019 Donna Thomas (founder of Homeless Hope) was the very worthy recipient in honour of the work she was doing with homeless people. Both Donna and I work for Powys Teaching Health Board and through my role of Engagement Officer I’d heard of her heart wrenching journey of life on the streets and her inspiring reasons for setting up Homeless Hope.
Now I’d been trying hard not to get involved with Homeless Hope because I just knew it would have my heart if I became a volunteer, but at the awards ceremony in walks a very nervous Donna and it felt like the most natural thing to do to go and lend her some support, and of course that was it and I was instantly hooked. Donna and I have become the firmest of friends ever since. There’s just something about DT, a hidden warmth, kindness, just something that attracts people, and I am not in the least bit surprised that she engages so well with those who are more vulnerable in our society. I started doing the street sessions back in 2019, quickly realising that I could add some value to the group by setting us up on social media. I created a Twitter and Instagram account to run alongside the existing Facebook page. Doing this has taken us forward tenfold and has given us a much bigger reach in terms of getting our message out there nationwide, raising awareness of foot health conditions in homeless people, and has enabled us to build our clinical volunteer membership which has added great value to our very friendly group. Through this we regularly engage with people from the UK and from other countries, which is great news. Back in the spring of 2020 we did a particularly upsetting session in Cardiff. Storm Denis had arrived in the week and by the time we got there homeless people were distraught at the impact the storm had on them. To say they were wet, cold, in pain and struggling with their emotions is an understatement. Their clothes were sodden, their skin was white and wrinkled through being wet and cold for so long and their feet were in a right state through being soaking wet. Grown men were crying, the Homeless Hope volunteers were crying, it really was the saddest thing to witness. I was driving home up over the Beacons and I just couldn’t let go of what I’d seen in Cardiff. I realised that it was unfair to take that home to my family so I pulled the car over, stood outside in the wind and the rain and cried.... ...... and just like that, it came to me! Homeless Hope could very much add value to a homeless persons life by launching a boot amnesty, which would at least ensure that homeless people could have a better chance of having dry feet!
I spoke to Donna as soon as I got home and that night the Homeless Hope Boot Amnesty was launched on social media. To say we winged it was an understatement; we were reliant on peoples goodwill to send items up to us and that’s exactly what happened, we received 89 pairs of waterproof footwear which we very quickly got out onto the streets of South Wales. We are immensely grateful for the support that we received from everyone. We also secured the backing of Nigel Owens MBE and we are incredibly grateful to Nigel for endorsing our campaign and sharing our tweets.
So out of my comfort zone but with the attitude that I’d signed up for this, so get on with it Mills, I managed to grasp the process of applying for grants and am delighted to confirm that in late August 2020 we were awarded grants from the Tesco’s Bags of Help Covid-19 Communities Fund scheme and the National Lottery Community Fund Wales which has enabled us to secure storage, purchase a supply of footwear, clothes, some medical supplies and other goods. As a result of the storage we are now in a position to be able to accept donations of furniture, just enough for us to be able to help someone transitioning from the streets to somewhere they can call home. Receiving the grants has been an immense benefit for us and we really are very grateful to both Tesco in conjunction with Groundwork UK and the National Lottery for their support.
Life for me has changed since becoming a Homeless Hope volunteer but I wouldn’t change it for the world. This charity really does have a special place in my heart, as do homeless people; people who for whatever reason find themselves living differently to you and I, and not always through choice. I’d like to think that if ever you or I were in the position that they find themselves in that Homeless Hope would be there for us.
Below is a video which captures just some of the homeless people that we encountered in Cardiff after storm Denis.
We also created the Homeless Hope Amazon Wishlist which is updated regularly. For anyone who wishes to view it here is the link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/hz/wishlist/ls/3S4EGQ23JHSNT?ref_=wl_share