An outreach service for the homeless in Stoke-on-Trent is struggling amid the current coronavirus crisis – and has appealed for help from the public.
Elizabeth Harris founded Stoke-on-Trent Homeless Outreach in 2019 after her own struggles with rough sleeping and her mental health.
In 2018 she jumped from a motorway bridge and broke her back, ribs and coccyx. Elizabeth says she ‘was very lucky to be alive.’
After spending time at the Harplands Hospital, Elizabeth is now in a much better place mentally and has recovered from her physical injuries – but she will never forget the position she was once in.
As a result, she decided to set up the homeless outreach service in order to help those in the city who are struggling – and now they need help even more due to the Covid-19 outbreak, which has brought donations to a halt.
Elizabeth said: “We recently had quite a big surge of donations so I have some things leftover from that, but otherwise I am struggling.
“A lot of the churches and organisations that feed the homeless have had to close their doors under current circumstances.
“So we have set up a Paypal so if people want to help – and are able to – they can donate and I can go and get supplies to keep us going.”
She, and her team of volunteers, help the city’s homeless by offering them warm, clean clothes, filling food, sleeping supplies and hygiene products.
“I go out and give a hot meal to rough sleepers that I see, as well as a snack pack to get them through to the next day, a hygiene pack, warm clothing and sleeping supplies such as a sleeping bag,” she added.
“They are different for men and women. The snack packs include things like sandwiches, snacks and fruit. I will also often make a big pot of pasta and put it into tupperware containers and take that out.
“My front room is my supply room and I prepare the food in my kitchen – the service has taken over my house. But I am well established now and have good connections with other services.”
Since starting her outreach service, kind-hearted Elizabeth has received many donations of both food and clothing items from generous supporters across the city.
She also says she has good connections with homeless services across the city – such as Hanley Baptist Church and the Macari Centre.
Elizabeth buys a lot of supplies for the outreach out of her own pocket, and doesn’t mind doing so, but there is only so much she can spend.
She added: “I buy some things along with my supporters and volunteers, but I can only buy so much.
“I always keep receipts and post on my Facebook page what I am buying. I will also message people to show them what their money has bought for someone in need.”
Amid the current crisis, Elizabeth has to had to adapt what she leaves for the homeless of the city.
She said: “I have been told, at this time with social distancing, the homeless are able to travel around in pairs. So I leave two of everything on benches around the city.
“This includes things like sandwiches and fruit that I include in the snack packs – as well as jumpers and sleeping bags, that kind of thing.”
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Anyone wishing to help Stoke-on-Trent Homeless Outreach can simply donate through the secure site, which would enable Elizabeth to buy more supplies to help those sleeping rough in the city.
Elizabeth added: “We are keen for more volunteers and would welcome them but not until this crisis is over. If people want to help right now then we would be so grateful for donations.
“I feel proud of myself for doing my bit. I just think it’s nice to be nice and if you can help then why wouldn’t you?”
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