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.
With the increasing need for rucksacks and growing potential for the initiative, Sowerby Bridge Rotary Club partnered with Rotary People of Kindness (POK), a sub-division of Rotary, to help give more focus to the rucksack project.
Rupert Cooke, a member of POK, joined during the pandemic and found that he wanted to give his time and energy back to the community and do something worthwhile. Rupert used his expertise in design and animation to create branding and content for Rucksacks4Homeless.
Rotaries as far as East Yorkshire have also adopted the model, and POK 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.