Homelessness / poverty

Feeding the homeless on the streets of Derby is now 7 days a week

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In previous articles I wrote about the good work of Street Safe Derby, and the Guru Nanak mission who have been relentlessly providing hot and cold food, as well as drinks, toiletries, and clothes to the homeless and needy in Derby. Between them, they have 5 days of the week covered, but those in need, are hungry for 7 days a week.

Fortunately there are 2 other groups that have emerged, working in different ways, which are bridging that gap, and enhancing the service.

Project Touchdown was set up by Zishan Fazal in October 2014. He is a young student with a simple objective of helping those in need. He felt it was his responsibility both as a human being and as a Muslim to support those who he could see every day were struggling to maintain any kind of dignity.

He didn’t want to become involved with hot food preparation and the obligations that that brings. The food that he offers is a combination of sandwiches which he, and the team prepare themselves, as well as fresh fruit from Pak foods and hot food that is supplied from local takeaways. He has a growing number of businesses in the Normanton area who have agreed to donate food on a regular basis. Lazeeza on Pear Tree Road will give up to 5 large pizzas each week, and others, who prefer to remain anonymous ( they are not looking for commercial gain from their acts of goodwill) will be supporting, as and when, Zishan calls on them. Drinks are also donated by McTurks.

In addition to food, he has people donating clothes, which are also very important for those sleeping rough and who have scarce access to facilities.

He is supported by a small group of volunteers, including his own brothers, who set up each Thursday at 8pm in the Market Square.

But Thursday in Derby, is only 1 of 4 cities in which they operate, the others being Birmingham, Leicester and Nottingham which operate the Project Touchdown “franchise”.

Doorways has been in existence for just a few weeks. It was launched on Facebook on May 9th 2015 by Patrick Hall, and in 2 weeks has the interest of just over 2500 people. Patrick was working with Street Safe Derby and was very conscious that they were not covering 7 days a week. This was not something that Street Safe wanted to commit to, as the group of women who run it have jobs, families and other commitments to consider.

Patrick has very quickly built up a network of volunteers who will cook for him each week. Business support has been very forthcoming with surprise approaches from Birds and Gala Bingo. To support their fundraising they have established a separate Facebook page to sell donated items. It is still very early days for Doorways but the rate of growth and the extent to which people want to help and support this initiative is a great testament to the goodwill that is latent within the local community.

Patrick’s longer term vision is to have a property in the Centre of Derby which can provide shelter, warmth, and washing facilities for the homeless and rough sleepers; a short but vital respite.

Doorways operates on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday each week, and works in conjunction with Project Touchdown on Thursday to avoid any unnecessary duplication or surplus.

The actions of everyone involved in these groups are very spiriting. It is the true essence of what charity was always supposed to be about and which in modern times gets lost in quasi-corporate structures and administration. Their motivations are simple, honest, and transparent. There is nothing to be gained by them other than the satisfaction of helping others, and genuinely making a difference to someone else’s life.

For all of them, sustaining this initiative for the long term is the real challenge, but they’ve all experienced the difficult winter months and the demands of the daily and weekly routines. It is inspiring to see how an important service such as this, unencumbered by Council intervention, rules and regulations can just happen with no “central” leadership or diktat. A fine example of how “goodness” in a society can emerge when allowed to do so.

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