A Swindon organisation, which started out as one mother’s personal mission to help the town’s homeless, has become an official charity.
Homeless Helping Hands (Swindon) will soon become a project of the new charity, Swindon Footprints from today, April 23 – the date of founder Rachel Tucker’s son’s 29thbirthday.
It is her son James’ struggle with addiction and homelessness which inspired Rachel, from Toothill, to help other people living on the streets.
“It means so much to me that I’m launching the charity to honour my son on his birthday,” said Rachel. “He’s on the streets, through no fault of his or my making and that’s why this is so important to me. I live through my son’s eyes. Every day, I feel the pain that he feels, I see the things he sees, even though I’m not there at that moment in time. I feel it. I want to be the eyes of the homeless and to speak on their behalf.”
Rachel had been out and about on the streets helping homeless people for months when in October last year, she asked for a friend’s help to set up a Facebook group to encourage others to support her quest to lift the stigma of being homeless. Rachel’s daughter Gemma and members of the community began to help and go out nightly.
Since then, the support has been overwhelming.
“Within two weeks, we had 2,500 people in our group and now it’s nearly 6,000. We’ve given over 3,000 hot meals to the homeless and we’re building good relationships with them.”
As well as providing food and clothes to those living on the streets, the new charity also runs a second project called Tent, Home and Beyond, which helps people find accommodation and employment and/or helps with access to education.
“We’re just about to house our third person,” said Rachel. “She’s just had a job interview, she’s got a part-time job and she starts today (April 23). It’s only going to be a couple of hours to start, with a view to moving into a full-time employment. We’re trying to house her partner at the same time, so that could be number four.”
Swindon Footprints is now officially a charitable company limited by guarantee, which means it will open up doors for people to offer support and fundraise.
The next stage is to raise £5,000 in order to be able to apply for an official charity number from the Charities Commission and Rachel and her team have a number of events planned in the coming months to meet this goal.
The charity will have an official launch later in the year. At the most recent count, there were almost 60 people living on the streets in Swindon.
The volunteers from Swindon Footprints feed about 18 people every time they go out. To find out more or make a donation or volunteer visit join their Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/1323228094445535/
Pictured above: Rachel Tucker the founder of Swindon Footprints