Around three and a half years ago, after finishing work on Brick Lane, Shoreditch, my brother and I made our way to the infamous bagel shop for a culinary treat. Exiting the shop, we were met by a group of people, who clearly had very little and needed some help. All we had was a little change, but handed it over nonetheless. Such a small gesture was met with monumental gratitude and appreciation.
This became a small theme in our week; venturing into London, driving around looking for someone who looked in need and seeing what we could do. We began putting we what called ‘care packages’ together; food & drink, toothbrushes/ mouthwash, socks & gloves – cigarettes if desired. Where possible, we’d sit down and speak to these people, ask them how they felt and about the struggle they face daily. The most ominous thing would be the fact that, for most, there was no way out. We were often told:
‘I never used to drink, but now I feel like it’s all I can do to get out of this’.
A lot of us (used to include myself) are way too quick to judge people when we see them drinking on the streets.
We don’t know their story. The fact remains- they’re still people, like us, and deserve to be happy. Jon and I met this guy once, his name incidentally was Billy. He was sitting outside a pub on Upper Street with a friend, reading a Karl Pilkington book. We approached him and offered him one of the care packages we’d put together. Needless to say, he was over the moon, and even more charmed that we’d taken the time to sit down and let him tell us his story.
“It’s nice to see I’ve not completely been forgotten and people still care.”
Billy used to own his own business, and after some misfortune now lived on the streets. He didn’t want to go to shelters because they were dirty and ‘full of tramps’. He went on to talk about big dreams and aspirations; which quite frankly, in our shoes, sounded like pipe dreams as it’s almost impossible to see how he’s going to turn his life around; especially with no postal address or capital. He doesn’t see himself as a tramp; hence the pride of not wanting to live in dirtied surroundings, although I questioned how living on the streets was any better. He argued that there was less disease if you choose a ‘clean’ place to stay. It’s hard to put it into context when you’re not in that position.
The point is, there are thousands of people in London in Billy’s position. We’re not going to change their lives long term (not yet), but short term we can make them smile and feel some sort of content in their lives. No matter their position or their addiction, they have the right to be happy and aspire to have a better life.
We would love to go on giving every night we can; to whomever we feel needs it. However, our own resources are limited. Therefore we have started Todos in the hope that we can raise awareness, money and helping-hands to do what we can. Even if you don’t choose to help through or with us, do it in your own way.
One act of random kindness a day, could brighten up 365 lives a year.
Two and a half years on, we’re now a registered charity. There’s not much I’m proud of, but saying that will never cease to make me smile. We have the most amazing team of volunteers who help out almost every week.
What’s next? The plan is to buy a large van to help us in the distribution of food and drink, clothing and other essentials to the homeless. At present, the logistics are really quite difficult and impractical. This van could be a game changer.