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Activism

Toiletries Amnesty is getting home comforts to those without them

Karen Harvey’s project provides an online database to allow people to donate unused smellies across the country

For some of the least fortunate in the country, from homeless shelters to care homes, even something as simple as having soap, shampoo or other smellies is still a luxury.

Karen Harvey is trying to fix that with a project called Toiletries Amnesty, encouraging people to root around in packed cupboards or taking complimentary items from hotel stays and repurposing them to help those without access to any.

The idea for the plan came four years ago when Karen investigated her own bathroom cupboards and found them full of smellies that she was never going to use.

“Everyone deserves access to the hygiene basics, such as toothpaste, soap, sanitary products, but there’s more to it than that,” said Karen, who is also involved with a Camera Amnesty allowing homeless people access to photo-taking equipment in her day job at Shutter Hub. “I’ve spoken to homeless shelters who take the part-used leftover soap from hotel guests because their clients need to wash, and mental health nurses who tell me they have so little funding that they can’t afford to get toiletries for their patients. It’s not just about the basics, it’s about the self confidence that comes from feeling clean, and about the positive effect on wellbeing something as simple as a hot bubble bath can have. It all adds up to make a big difference, and it’s something we can all get onboard with.”

She chose to give them to good causes before asking pals to join in. But before long she was inundated with donations, more than she could handle alone.

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So Karen has set up an online directory for the project, outlining all the refuges, foodbanks and homeless shelters across the UK and Ireland that are accepting donated toiletries.

“We received the X Foundation Grant, which gave us the funds to build a website with a fully interactive directory,” she said. “The goal now is to get more organisations involved. The movement is growing every day, and we know it’s having a positive impact. We’re at the stage where we need to get more funding, our focus has been on making it work, it’s working, and now we need to look at the bigger picture.

Image: Toiletries Amnesty

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