Hand on Heart, a homeless project, has delivered backpacks filled with essential items to people living on the streets in Hemel Hempstead.
The organisation - a provider of essential items to the homeless – announced they are on track to deliver over 1,000 Winter Warmer backpacks this month to rough sleepers in England.
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 between 20 and 30 backpacks were distributed through DENS in Hemel Hempstead.
The winter warmer backpacks contain blankets, hooded sweatshirts, thermal clothing, gloves, woolly hats, tee shirts, socks, underwear, hot water bottles, deodorants, oral hygiene sets and personal protective equipment.
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.
Backpacks were also distributed to rough sleepers across Watford, Central London, Greater London, Birmingham, Milton Keynes, Essex and Hertfordshire.
Hand on Heart’s co-founder Afzal Pradhan BEM said “This is a critical time to distribute the essential packs.
"What we have noticed during this campaign is that there is an increased number of people who need assistance.
"We feel it is a lot to do with the pandemic, and people needing help because of them losing their jobs
"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 our partners Beta Charitable Trust, we are making an impact to provide help to rough sleepers on the streets.
"We started with handing the bags out to people in central London, where there are a lot of homeless people, and then we started talking about the people who are homeless in local areas so we reached out and started working with organisations in Hertfordshire, Luton, Milton Keynes and other areas.
"We are working with homeless shelters and foodbanks, like DENS, to support local people, we ask them how many they need and then we pack the bags and deliver them to the charity, who then distribute them in the area.
"Hand on Heart have got volunteers in the areas who work with the organisations. The infrastructure is there and it works well, the volunteers are fantastic."
Hand on Heart is a volunteer group based in Watford, Hertfordshire; established in 2007 to support rough sleepers, vulnerable and the disadvantaged across England.
Since 2019, the group have evolved and provides essential items and vital services to rough sleepers.
Hand on Heart are supported by Beta Charitable Trust and a host of volunteer families and individuals.
The backpack preparation, assembly and delivery was supported by the involvement of the High Sheriff of Hertfordshire Henry Holland-Hibbert, Watford MP Dean Russell, Elected Mayor of Watford Peter Taylor and Watford councillors Rabi Martins and Asif Khan.
The Winter Warmer Pack distribution marks Hand on Heart’s ninth project in 2020; a year which has brought to a fore the plight of rough sleepers and the vulnerable in society.
After receiving a BEM during 2020 New Year’s Honours List for volunteering at the Cricket World Cup 2019, Afzal Pradhan added: “Hand on Heart have had a remarkable year to serve disadvantaged, vulnerable and homeless people during the Covid-19 pandemic.
"We could not operate without the volunteers and the support they bring.
"The challenges of the pandemic could not prevent over 200 volunteers taking part in some capacity across our projects this year.
"The community spirit has been overwhelming, which we hope to continue into our projects for next year.”