Celebrating Excellence
Markel 3rd Sector Care Awards

Continuing a series of features celebrating 2022’s winners, CMM is delighted to hear from Jorawar Singh Rathour, founder of the London Homeless Welfare Team, who were winners in multiple categories at this year’s awards.

The London Homeless Welfare Team sum up exactly what the awards are all about, said the judges. Getting the basics right, a tireless dedication to supporting its local community and a clear, personal commitment to the organisation’s daily operation. The judges were also impressed by the winner’s diverse recruitment of volunteers and organic approach to leadership.

Personal connection

The London Homeless Welfare Team was formed on the 1st January 2020 – the day of our first outreach. This was the result of an alarming number of rough sleepers that we would come across on a daily basis whilst commuting in and around London. As the founder of our charitable organisation and having experienced a difficult past myself, this became a very personal matter, as I am well aware of the every day horrors faced by rough sleepers.

We were one of the first organisations to initiate the COVID-19 defence packs on 4th March 2020. The packs contained some vital essentials: bottled water, hand sanitiser, pocket tissues, an NHS COVID-19 leaflet and a mask. We put this into action before any lockdown measures were introduced by the Government. Many rough sleepers were unaware of the extreme dangers of COVID-19 that we know became a pandemic. A large proportion of homeless people have various underlying and often complex health issues, so it was crucial to distribute the packs rapidly and efficiently. We did so, not only throughout London, but we also distributed these packs across the UK. Being able to cook and provide nutritional food and bottled water to maintain health and immune systems was equally important in combatting the virus.

Raising awareness

Initially, our charity was very challenging to get off the ground and funding was a real issue. Self-funding was our only option in the beginning. However, we were fortunate to receive help from various food supermarkets and local businesses with food surplus. Our first outreach took place outside Finsbury Park tube station in North London. This was a turning point for us when we attracted national and international media attention. Many became aware of our efforts to help those that were sleeping rough. We were also able to highlight our work via radio interviews and podcasts.

The fact that we were self-funding (although on an extremely small scale) as six team members helped us develop trust amongst the public as an unknown organisation at the time. This contributed to our success with outside donations which in turn, allowed us to steadily expand.

Our expansion involved partnering with the Neighbourly Scheme who then put us in touch with Marks & Spencer as well as Sainsbury’s. The amount of food surplus that we were given came as a pleasant surprise, as we had not expected so much. This made so much sense, as a high quantity of edible food would be sent to landfills and ultimately, go to waste. We became increasingly aware of how we can help reduce waste and our own carbon footprint. We do our very best to recycle packaging on a weekly basis at our local recycling centres.

“Many rough sleepers were unaware of the extreme dangers of COVID-19 that we know became a pandemic”

Expanding support

It became increasingly apparent, that it was more than just basic survival necessities that were required, as so many were suffering from addictions, as well as mental health issues. Acknowledging this, we undertook the two-day Mental Health First Aider (MHFA) training from the charity, Mind. We encourage all volunteers to take part in becoming a MHFA. We believe that this is extremely important considering the nature of the work that is involved, and how it can directly affect volunteers. This was especially important, being NHS check-in-and chat volunteers. We have also been involved with suicide prevention and were kindly invited to be a part of ‘StreetFest’ in 2021 which took place in Finsbury Park and was a huge success. We set up a ‘Positive’ board that anyone could write a word or a message on. This was an excellent conversation starter and was appreciated by all. The highlight of this interaction was of a gentleman who drew a smiley face as he was not able to form words. We were delighted to see how this became such a positive experience for him.

“We encourage all volunteers to take part in becoming a Mental Health First aider. We believe that this is extremely important”

Pillars of community

One of the major difficulties we faced was logistics. We had to prioritise and limit how much food, wash supplies and clothing we were able to carry whilst commuting on public transport. Applying for grants and fundraising were crucial in overcoming this. Our first ever grant was awarded for our COVID-19 work (Southern Co-op). Thereafter, for help with the purchase of our community vehicle (Capital Arches Group Ltd). Our most recent grant has been for our mental health training programme (Arnold Clark Community Fund), for which we are extremely grateful. We are now able to operate stationary food support at least four times per month.

We also deliver to those with mobility issues, elderly care homes, struggling families, food banks, homeless shelters and to those with mental health support needs. Our on-foot homeless outreaches take place at least once a month across London. This is where we drive to a designated area with all our supplies and do a mile walk along rough sleeper hot spots. The busiest so far was our Victoria outreach which took place on an extremely hot day. We were constantly having to purchase and replenish our bottled water supplies. This particular part of our work has been extremely important, enabling us to visit those that may not have otherwise been able to get to us.

Rising to the challenge

On average, we are now able to provide support services to 100 people per month, with the likelihood of this rising due to economic uncertainties. Our next phase of support with the help of funding will include the expansion of volunteers to involve food safety training, MHFA training, being able to purchase a trailer, power generator, hot food servers and rent storage space. This is essential for us to be able to meet the increasing needs following the rise in living costs. An example of this was our ‘back to school packed lunch’ initiative. We would give specifically packed food items to young families who were struggling to send their children to school with healthy meals.

The services that we are able to provide are a direct result of the commitment of individuals and organisations, ensuring that we are able to support the vulnerable in our society. This is a collaborative effort, and we are truly very grateful to all.

 


Jorawar Singh Rathour is the founder of the London Homeless Welfare Team. Email: lhwteam@aol.com 

The Markel 3rd Sector Care Awards is run specifically for the voluntary care and support sector. Visit www.3rdsectorcareawards.co.uk  to view the 2022 event winners and find out more about next year’s event. Sponsorship opportunities are available.

With thanks to our supporting organisations: National Care Forum, Learning Disability England, The Care Provider Alliance, Association of Mental Health Providers and VODG.

The Contribution to Sector Development Award was kindly sponsored by Markel Law and the Making a Difference Award was kindly sponsored by Markel UK.

About Jorawar Singh Rathour

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