I run Help for the Homeless (H40H) which supports those in hardship. It started six years ago with a group of friends after a local charity, advertised for money for Christmas dinners for homeless people. My friend and I decided to support that instead of buying each other rubbishy Christmas presents.
A week later another friend contacted me asked if I wanted to help them with some work they were doing with homeless people. I made about 100 rounds of sandwiches and a flask of soup and turned up on Cadogan Street. We had clothes and toiletries and things in the car. Within five minutes there was no food left – it was gone. We were there for hours though, talking to people; t was a nice atmosphere. There were lots of groups there doing their thing and that is where I first met the guys from Emmaus Glasgow.
Emmaus Glasgow support the soup kitchen on Cadogan Street, so I got to know the team there. On my first week at the soup kitchen, I met a chap who needed some clothing. It was -6°c and he needed some big clothing. When I got back the following week, I had brought him some stuff but unfortunately, he had passed away through hyperthermia. He was only about 30, I was just so devastated. I thought “who wants a sandwich when its -6°c?”
I was so angry. The following week I took a camping stove, a table and I did a pot of stew and I had a hot box with hot pies and sausage rolls. Now we do about 300-odd meals on the street every Thursday night. We have been doing that for the last six years and the numbers have escalated. We were doing that right up until the start of the pandemic, but as we cannot have crowds drawn together at the moment, we’ve got street teams that go round with hot food instead.
As soon as everything closed at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic I began accepting food donations from restaurants. I had so much food that my van was full every single day. I phoned the Emmaus Glasgow community to ask if they needed any food and ever since then we’ve been swapping foods and goods, all sorts of things depending on what we need.
All the soup kitchens in Cadogan Street shut down within the first week of lockdown in March 2020 For the guys staying in emergency accommodation such as the hostels and hotels, everywhere that they’d normally get free or cheap food closed so I started cooking meals for them.
We raised money to buy 170 microwaves to give to those in emergency accommodation and we were making meals for people that weren’t allowed microwaves in their rooms. I started with 100 people on the first week and then by the second week it was 370, then in a couple months we were up to 500 a day and then up to 750 a day. It was escalating right through the pandemic. By then a lot of other groups had got involved, including individuals, restaurants, caterers, and charity groups. I started a rota, and we covered every hostel that didn’t have cooking facilities. We also delivered breakfast to two hotels where people didn’t have access to breakfast; that was for 150 people. I calculated the numbers in August, and we’d done 15,000 breakfasts and between 150,000 and 180,000 dinners all thanks to a huge effort from restaurants and charity groups. In October, the council took over and started paying for that to happen.
Lots of our other activities have also escalated through the pandemic. Two years ago, we were contacted about a family of four that hadn’t eaten for four days. We took food to the school and were told about lots of other families that were struggling. Since then, we have set up community cupboards in five schools. They are a place for children and parents to access food. Since August last year we have been doing food deliveries to the families that are struggling. We’re doing just under 100 food parcels a week and we deliver it to their doors, so they don’t have to go and collect it from the school.
At Christmas we also ended up arranging 500 Christmas presents for children. A lot of families couldn’t afford Christmas so we worked with schools, social services, and health visitors to get a list of children that wouldn’t necessarily get something for Christmas and found out what that child liked. We had lists from all over Glasgow and thought we’d be able to do 50-100 but just through our personal Facebook accounts we were able to get all 500. We ended up getting more toys than we needed so we’ve got toys which we are using as birthday presents. We got some amazing donations; it’s just crazy the amount of people that are so lovely and willing to help. A local toy shop gave people discounts, and the owner would then deliver the items for us. Although there’s been a lot of negativity through the pandemic, there has been a huge amount of positivity.
During lockdown we have also been furnishing flats for guys who are moved from homeless hostels and hotels into temporary accommodation. They often have no possessions; they’ve just got the clothes on their back. We raise money to get them some household items and get them as much furniture as possible.
Emmaus Glasgow has been fantastic working with us on this. The guys help us more furniture. The other day we needed two vans, so they came with their van and we moved all this furniture. We furnished two flats in one day, complete with everything in them. A chap moved in with nothing except his clothes and then the next day the Emmaus guys worked with us to deliver everything he could need.
I don’t have storage so if we get excess donations I ask if Emmaus Glasgow need them for their shops or can use it somehow. In return, if I were struggling to get somebody a bed or furniture I’d phone up and ask them if they have anything spare and they find it. We found we could kind use each other and work together to help people. We’re all there for a common goal, to help people, so we might as well be doing it in the most effective way possible without double up on resources.
I get the biggest satisfaction from just knowing that I’m reaching out and helping people that don’t have the support network that I’ve been lucky enough to have.
You do what you do because you like doing it and you know it’s helping people. You know you’re having an impact because you can see it on people’s faces, just having that support and someone to chat to. Our group does a lot if listening to people, treating people with respect – it’s as simple as that. It’s supporting their mental health, being a familiar face and someone to talk to. That connection and friendliness is what it’s all about.
If you would like to support homeless people by joining the volunteers performing vital outreach on Cadogan Street in Glasgow or help perform any of our other volunteer roles, please contact Emmaus Glasgow on 0141 353 3903.