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“It’s nice to be able to give something back”

Moira and Steve have been volunteering for HARP for seven and four years respectively. Moira started in the kitchen at the day centre back when it was based in an old church building in Westcliff and has continued to provide breakfasts for people rough sleeping at our Bradbury Day Centre. Steve started off doing odd gardening jobs before volunteering in “The Shed,” our food, toiletries and clothing bank for people experiencing homelessness.

After a short break during the first lockdown, the couple returned to the kitchen at our Bradbury Day Centre to providing breakfasts in a socially distanced setting so that people rough sleeping could safely enjoy a hot meal after a night on the streets before pausing again for the third lockdown.

“It’s like a void in our lives not going in to volunteer on a Friday,” said Moira. “We really missed it during the first lockdown, so it was great to get back to it when the restrictions eased for a while. We’re looking forward to returning.”

Steve added: “We like being able to help. We’re lucky enough to be relatively comfortable so it’s nice to be able to give something back now that we have retired.”

Moira was still working full time when she first started volunteering at HARP, condensing her working days so that she could volunteer on a Friday, whilst Steve started volunteering once he retired. The couple have enjoyed having their eyes opened to the reality of homelessness.

“Volunteering challenges your preconceived ideas of homeless,” said Steve. “People have certain stereotypes of about who ends up homeless, but we’ve met ex-solicitors and bankers, people who had their own business, or who just had nowhere to go after a marriage break-up. There were people just like you and I and it was a big learning curve.”

“One of the biggest challenges is other people’s attitude about homelessness,” said Moira. “Some people assume that all people who are homeless are ‘just lazy’ and it can be hard to get them to see that it’s not that simple - everyone gets tarred with the same brush.”

Steve and Moira are looking forward to socialising and catching up with people at HARP to see how they are, including clients, staff and other volunteers.

Moira said: “In a way, we hope that we won’t see too many of the same faces amongst the people who come for breakfast. We hope that they’ll have moved on with their lives.”

“We noticed a difference went we came back after the first lockdown,” added Steve. “There was one man who had been coming for breakfast for while who suffered quite badly with his mental health. He hadn’t even been able to look us in the eye. But he had moved into accommodation during the first lockdown and when we saw him again he was looking quite well and engaging with us. It shows what can happen when someone gets off the streets. Hopefully that’s one of the good things that comes out of the pandemic.”

Everyone at HARP is looking forward to welcoming Steve and Moira back along with all our other volunteers.


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