Rucksacks4Homeless: A Beacon of Hope for Calderdale’s Homeless.

Homelessness can be caused by many factors, including life events such as divorce and unemployment, the lack of affordable housing, domestic violence, alcoholism and substance misuse and leaving the army or care.

It is difficult to estimate just how many people in the UK are facing the devastating challenge of being homeless, as most are not able to be accounted for in official statistics.

Hazel Brindle, former president of the Sowerby Bridge Rotary Club (2017-18) started the Rucksacks4Homeless initiative along with a colleague, to help alleviate the struggles of those who sleep rough, especially in the harsh winter months.

In the early stages, Hazel had befriended a local man, Colin, who had previously experienced homelessness himself and was keen to help out those who were also in the position he had once been in.

Colin became an integral part of the project, becoming an ambassador and advising Hazel and the team on the contents of the rucksacks using his own lived experience.

Sadly, Colin passed away just over 18 months ago, nonetheless, his impact on the lives he has helped through Rucksacks4Homeless will continue, with Nik, who has also experienced homelessness, carrying on Colin’s legacy and taking on the role of ambassador.

Each rucksack, which costs around £90 to fully equip, contains essential items such as a sleeping mat and bag, waterproofs, hats, scarves, socks and gloves as well as a personal hygiene kit and a thermos flask.

Over the past five years, there have been over 350 rucksacks distributed throughout Calderdale alone. Given the ongoing Cost-of-Living Crisis, it is anticipated that this figure will increase as more individuals grapple with difficult circumstances.

As the demand for rucksacks continues to rise and the potential for the initiative expands, the Sowerby Bridge Rotary Club joined forces with Rotary People of Kindness (POK), a sub-division of Rotary, to ensure the project receives dedicated and full-time attention.

Rupert Cooke, a member of People of Kindness, joined the organisation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Rupert was compelled to do something worthwhile and give his time and energy back to his community.

He used his expertise in design and animation to create branding and social media content for Rucksacks4Homeless and his commitment to using these skills not only enhanced the project’s visual appeal but also played a pivotal role in driving its mission forward with impact and empathy.

The initiative has continued to grow each year, with local organisations such as Calderdale SmartMove and Happy Days supporting.

Rotaries as far as East Yorkshire have also adopted the model, and People of Kindness are currently in discussions with groups across Manchester, where homelessness and rough sleeping are particularly prevalent.

While Rucksacks4Homeless may not be a complete solution to ending homelessness, it plays a crucial role in providing assistance and support to those experiencing homelessness by offering essential supplies, comfort, and a sense of dignity as they navigate their challenges.

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