Hand on Heart – a provider of essential items to the homeless – met MP for Watford Dean Russell to understand initiatives planned to support rough sleepers in the local area. Dean shared his vision for how rough sleepers can be better supported through the ongoing collaboration of Watford-based charities, shelters, hostels and the wider network including organisations such as Hand on Heart.
Hand on Heart’s co-founder Afzal Pradhan BEM updated Dean on the progress of the Winter Warmer Pack distribution. Hand on Heart sought to expand their annual Winter Warmer Project in response to the second Covid-19 lockdown and the increasing number of visible homeless on the streets. Added to this, the drop in donations and the onset of the harsh winter conditions has created very tough conditions for rough sleepers.
The Hand on Heart team sourced essential items and assembled 1,050 backpacks with a team of 42 volunteer families, including the Elected Mayor of Watford Peter Taylor. This whole project was coordinated from Hand on Heart’s location in Watford town centre and the backpacks are being distributed to rough sleepers across Watford, Central London, Greater London, Birmingham, Milton Keynes, Essex and Hertfordshire.
The winter warmer packs contain blankets, hooded sweatshirts, thermal clothing, gloves, woolly hats, tee shirts, socks, underwear, hot water bottles, deodorants, oral hygiene sets and personal protective equipment – all provided within a strong backpack. The items selected for the backpacks were based on consultation with rough sleepers and guidance from homeless shelters. Separate backpacks were created for men and women with a range of sizes and accompanied with cupcakes baked by local bakers.
Dean shared his gratitude and recognition of the excellent work by Hand on Heart’s volunteers. He helped the distribution team to load the backpacks into the cars for transportation to London, where the Hand on Heart team distributed over 130 Winter Warmer Packs to rough sleepers in Holborn, alongside Children of Adam – a community group who feed rough sleepers every Sunday evening.
Afzal said “This is a critical time to distribute the essential packs. The second lockdown – and start of the cold and wet months – is making it extremely difficult for our guests to source basic items which we all take for granted. Sadly, we have seen an increase in the number of homeless on the streets. The situation is becoming desperate. However, working in collaboration with other charities and the support from Spectrum Consortium and our partners Beta Charitable Trust, we are making an impact to provide help to rough sleepers on the streets.”
The Winter Warmer Pack preparation, assembly and delivery was supported by the involvement of the High Sheriff of Hertfordshire Henry Holland-Hibbert, Watford MP Dean Russell, Mayor Peter Taylor and Watford councillors Rabi Martins and Asif Khan.