Housing

Volunteer-led homeless outreach team having to expand as crisis worsens

Jorawar Singh Rathour and his family have been providing rough sleepers with Covid health packs, food and other essentials during the pandemic. Now they're having to scale up due to demand.

London Homeless Welfare Team

“I was homeless myself for 22 weeks, I’ve been on the streets, I’ve seen the horrors. I’ve experienced the horrors.”

On New Years Day 2020, Jorawar Singh Rathour set out to provide those sleeping rough in his neighbourhood with food and hot drinks. He’d seen the people on the streets while passing through the area of north London and, having been in their situation, wanted to help.

“Whenever I travelled through Finsbury Park, words that would come to mind were alarming, depressing, eye-opening. At any given time, there were around 10 people under the bridge. It was very difficult to see that.” 

Jorawar Singh Rathour

The huge response on that day, followed by the pandemic, pushed Rathour into setting up the London Homeless Welfare Team, which he runs with family members. They all volunteer to provide rough sleepers with food and Covid packs throughout the pandemic.

With homelessness expected to increase over the coming months due to furlough ending and universal credit being cut, the team are looking to expand and have recently set up a new partnership with Sainsbury’s. They are also trying to source a van to help with distributions. 

“On New Year’s Day, we just set up a small stall near the station, we were shocked and horrified at how many people we ended up helping on that day. It must have been 40 or 50.

“What we heard from those we worked with was horrific. Many were out on the streets through no fault of their own.

“One thing that was very common with the women that were there is that they found the bridge a safe place, because it was well-lit and sheltered from the rain. But the police would keep moving them on, meaning they would go into the park which is really quite unsafe.”

Rathour has since been named on The Big Issue’s 2021 changemaker list and is a supporter of The Big Issue’s Stop Mass Homelessness campaign.

Show your support for the Stop Mass Homelessness campaign by signing our petition

Currently, his team partner with M&S and collect essentials from them around eight times a month. They have just set up a collection point with Sainsburys which will begin later this month. 

The team report that the demand for the service is growing, not just on behalf of rough sleepers, but families who do not have access to essentials. 

“We are extremely worried [about rising homelessness this autumn] there seems to be more and more people coming out onto the streets,” he said.

“Already, we have had a lot more people getting in touch with us, particularly families and young children. We have done an initiative recently where we focused specifically on packed lunches.” 

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