charity begins at home...less
My charitable journey with Homeless Hampers (HH) began at The Woods (Craft Beer & Pizza Bar) in Chapel Allerton. Where I join the volunteer meeting to find out more about what HH actually do.
There’s so much going on around us that we don’t see or, we choose not to see. Like many in our wonderful community, local couple Tina and Aky Suryavansi have chosen to keep their eyes wide open. In this article I will enlighten you into the depths of their commitment, determination, and resilience to provide free of charge essentials to the homeless community of Leeds.
Following their son Akash’s kidney failures and subsequent transplants from both Tina and Aky they wanted to give something back to society.
Homeless Hampers began, you’ve guessed it, by delivering hampers of essentials to the homeless (in Christmas 2015). The name has stuck but the charity has grown enormously in the services that it provides and who it provides them to.
A wide range of people fall into the category of “homeless”. It’s not just the people who live on the streets, it’s all the people in shelters and asylum seekers too. Including the mostly unseen Afghan refugees sheltering with families as long-term residents (many for over 10 months) in Leeds hotels. HH are helping by providing crafts, toys, and activities for the children (many of whom have not yet received a school placement) and English lessons for the adults. The resettlement program is a slow and steady process, Leeds City Council are doing a brilliant job with the difficulties they face, and we must remember these families had perfectly happy lives but were driven away from their homes and had no choice but to leave.
The many sponsored Ukrainians coming to Leeds will not fall into HH’s remit unless they are homeless. They have one person already and are unfortunately expecting to see more over the coming months.
When a person is moved from a shelter into a social housing property the homes are often unfurnished. A recent article from The Big Issue discovered that a shocking “98% of social housing is unfurnished”*. Meaning that when a homeless person or family is re-homed, they are faced with a mammoth and expensive task. This is another part of HH’s role in the community, wherever possible HH will arrive with their van to provide essential furniture and white goods all free of charge.
Another awesome example of the type of work undertaken is a very recent project to revamp an outdoor space at a women’s refuge. With supplies donated from Leeds Wood Recycling, Seagulls Paint and Homebase Moortown, plus, a troop of volunteers the job was incredibly well organised and completed in just 2 days.
A regular part of HH’s schedule is the Sunday outreach on Vicar Lane (Leeds). I volunteered my time to get involved and find out more. It’s a regimented session with the trestle tables up quickly and their large van arriving full to bursting with snack bags, hot food (with burners to keep it hot), drinks, pizza, clothing, and other essentials. Further deliveries arrive with volunteers bringing donations from local businesses and excess supermarket stocks too. The whole collection is set out for their clients, who are lining up patiently. As clients move along the line taking only what they need, if it is noticed that they need any further assistance they are taken aside and consulted (I say consulted, but it’s just a casual chat and only if they are happy to do so) and any additional supplies are given, e.g., clothing.
Many in the queue are well known to HH as ‘regulars’, some are individuals who have been rehomed but still require additional help, anyone who arrives is provided for, but the homeless are prioritised. Information is provided for clients on local food banks for further support.
Within 2 hours the space on Vicar Lane was left as if they were never even there. After all, some of the clients do not like to leave their sleeping spot and belongings for very long.
Nothing is wasted, anything left over from the outreach is delivered to local shelters and hostels.
A truly astounding fact about HH is that though they are a registered charity they have been able to complete all of this without applying for any grants or funding. None of the Trustees, with their own demanding full-time jobs, have taken a penny in salary. All donations given are used to provide goods and services to the homeless.
Plus, Tina and Aky were recognised in 2021 by Idris and Sabrina Elba and gifted a billboard in London!
“We take away a lot from helping others, makes our hearts smile when we see someone else smile. We believe in karma and being selfless and hope it gives our son a long and healthy life that’s why we do what we do and hence the journey we are on.”
Tina & Aky
Homeless Hampers won the Volunteer of the Year 2022 at Yorkshire Choice Awards.
Tina and Aky are providing a voice to the “homeless” by asking local businesses and individuals to help. It may be simpler to think of them as a catalyst that speeds up processes and brings everything together.
They would like to thank all their volunteers for the amazing work and unwavering commitment.
Plus, a vast group of national and local businesses, Direct Line Group – ongoing donations and support (including buying them a large van), Thali Catering – hot food, Singh’s – food for hostels, McCarthy’s Removals & Storage – vast storage space, Northern Collective – fund raising, The Woods – fresh pizzas for outreach (every Sunday) and Greggs, Tesco, Coop, Aldi, TK Maxx, Waitrose, M&S – excess food used on outreach and to make the hot soups.
If you have some time to spare, they would be grateful for your help on a wide range of projects in the pipeline, you may just have some skills that they are looking for. Add yourself to their volunteer email list via the contact form online: www.homelesshampers.co.uk/contact-us to be notified of new opportunities.
Contact Tina via email:
if you have a business that would like to help.