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Hundreds of heroes give up time to help rough sleepers in Redbridge during the festive season

PUBLISHED: 07:30 19 December 2018

(Left) Woodford County High School pupil Simrit Tagar, 11, and Manraj Tagar, of St Aubyn's School, have collected

(Left) Woodford County High School pupil Simrit Tagar, 11, and Manraj Tagar, of St Aubyn's School, have collected "bags of warmth" in support of humanitarian charity Khalsa Aid's campaign to help rough sleepers. Photo: Tejinder Tagar

Archant

Hundreds of people from across the community are volunteering to help the borough's rough sleepers over Christmas and the New Year.

Former rough sleeper Mindas stayed at the night shelter for the past six winters. This year he returns as a volunteer. Photo: John CliftonFormer rough sleeper Mindas stayed at the night shelter for the past six winters. This year he returns as a volunteer. Photo: John Clifton

From distributing food and clothing to staffing night shelters, the Recorder knows of at least 300 volunteers involved with charities, faith groups, schools or businesses supporting the homeless.

Around 200 people are signed up to volunteer at the Salvation Army-run night shelter, in Clements Road, hosting up to 28 guests each night.

Some of those volunteers are set to support a second night shelter based in Ryedale Court, in Ilford Lane, which opened on Monday (December 17) and hosted 22 people.

Captain John Clifton said: “The Salvation Army has incredible volunteers who give time and energy to help run the shelter.

The Capstone Church, in High Road, Ilford, served a Christmas meal to the borough's rough sleepers on December 17. Photo: Capstone ChurchThe Capstone Church, in High Road, Ilford, served a Christmas meal to the borough's rough sleepers on December 17. Photo: Capstone Church

“Without them, it would be impossible to get people off the street every night.

Both shelters are set to stay open until hostel Project Malachi, in Chadwick Road, is up and running next year.

Among the volunteers is Mindas Peculionis, 26, who helps once a week in Clements Road.

When the Recorder spoke to Mindas at Christmastime last year, he was staying at the shelter as a guest, as he had done for the five years prior.

Volunteers from the Federation of Redbirdge Muslims Organisations (Formo) have coordinated a drive in donations across Redbridge schools and mosques which will be distributed by charity Serving Humanity. Photo: FormoVolunteers from the Federation of Redbirdge Muslims Organisations (Formo) have coordinated a drive in donations across Redbridge schools and mosques which will be distributed by charity Serving Humanity. Photo: Formo

“I was homeless and they helped me and so now I want to give back,” he said.

He added: “The shelter offers people hope.

“I gave up hope a few times and it wasn’t easy.”

The SA’s shelter has traditionally stayed open over Christmas, preparing a special meal and giving cards to its guests, according to coordinator Cedric Lungiambudi.

The Capstone Church, in High Road, Ilford, served a Christmas meal to the borough's rough sleepers on December 17. Photo: Capstone ChurchThe Capstone Church, in High Road, Ilford, served a Christmas meal to the borough's rough sleepers on December 17. Photo: Capstone Church

But this year - with the shelter opening earlier and for longer than usual - guests will stay at a residency run by homelessness charity Crisis in Chalk Farm from the 23rd to the 30th of this month.

“This is give our volunteers a chance to rest and for us to clear up and improve the shelter,” said Cedric, who began volunteering at the shelter eight years ago.

Numerous distributions of food and clothing are also being carried out by the borough’s faith groups and schools.

A dedicated 11-strong troupe from Ilford’s Capstone Church, in High Road, hosted a Christmas meal on December 17.

(Left) Woodford County High School pupil Simrit Tagar, 11, and Manraj Tagar, of St Aubyn's School, have collected (Left) Woodford County High School pupil Simrit Tagar, 11, and Manraj Tagar, of St Aubyn's School, have collected "bags of warmth" in support of humanitarian charity Khalsa Aid's campaign to help rough sleepers. Photo: Tejinder Tagar

The group’s Daljeep Kular said: “We have a great team of dedicated volunteers from inside and outside the church without whom we could not run this ministry.”

The church has been preparing meals for the homeless every Monday for around three years.

Community group the Sikh Empowerment Voluntary Association (SEVA) has around 90 volunteers signed up to its books, according to group’s Jagdeep Singh Sohal.

“We’ve never missed a Tuesday feed since 2015 and Christmas Day will be no different,” he said.

The Capstone Church, in High Road, Ilford, served a Christmas meal to the borough's rough sleepers on December 17. Photo: Capstone ChurchThe Capstone Church, in High Road, Ilford, served a Christmas meal to the borough's rough sleepers on December 17. Photo: Capstone Church

A Christmas meal will also be hosted by Muslim charity Serving Humanity, with food and warm clothing donated by worshippers from Balfour Road Mosque, Seven Kings Mosque, Al Noor School, in Green Lane and Apex Primary, in Argyle Road.

“Children as young as five dipped into their personal savings to purchase food for the homeless,” said Farouk Ismail, chairman of the Federation of Muslim Organisations, who coordinated the donation.

Pupils at the Atam Academy, in Barley Lane, are taking part in a sponsored sleep out in partnership with the Sikh Channel to raise funds for homeless hostel Project Malachi.

“Bags of warmth” containing hats, gloves, scarves and warm jumpers have also been collected by Barkingside residents Simrit Tagar, 11, and Maraj Tagar, 9.

“It’s so great to know that you’re doing your part to help those less fortunate,” said Simrit.

“And to know they will have a bit more warmth this winter.”

But it is important to remember that the issue of homelessness persists beyond winter.

Since October 2017, nine have died on the streets of Ilford. A 10th former rough sleeper died in temporary accommodation.

Crowdfunding campaign Redbridge Together aims to raise funds for to long-term projects to help rebuild their lives.

Text LIFE to 70145 to donate £3 and find out more at crowdfunder.co.uk/redbridgetogether

Involved in a community initiative that has not been mentioned?

Let us know by emailing aaron.walawalkar@archant.co.uk

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