HAVING donated £1m between April and July to help those impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, Freemasons are now focusing on protecting the homeless, with a new series of donations across England and Wales.
The homeless crisis has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, with many people losing their jobs and finding themselves either living on the streets or in unsuitable living conditions. In 2019 Shelter estimated that 280,000 people were homeless in England whilst the Greater London Authority reported 4,227 people sleeping rough in London between April and June, of which 2,680 were sleeping on the streets for the first time.
The funds raised will help provide safe living conditions, healthcare, meals, and employment opportunities for the homeless; as well as helping protect them from the winter weather, which kills hundreds of homeless people every year. In addition, Freemasons will be volunteering their time at 26 homeless support organisations.
Freemasons will be providing the following support to homeless people across the country:
- More than 40,000 homeless people will be provided with essentials, transport and support, as well as help accessing services such as counselling, healthcare and benefits;
- Almost 197,000 meals will be provided to homeless people;
- Approximately 600 people are being given employment and training opportunities;
- Nearly 1,400 individuals are being provided with accommodation and support.
Dr David Staples, chief executive of the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE), said:
“We are expecting a harsh winter this year and so it’s essential to protect and support the homeless. Hundreds die every year on our streets during the winter, which is a shocking statistic, and due to the pandemic, many vulnerable people have found themselves on the streets for the first time.
“In this second phase of donations, following our initial contributions during the Covid-19 crisis, we have donated the largest part of the funding towards helping the homeless. We hope this will provide those in need with somewhere safe to stay during winter but also offer them more long term help to get off the streets and into secure accommodation.”
Among the organisations being prioritised by UGLE, the governing body for Freemasons in England and Wales, are local arms of homeless charity Emmaus. The money is being distributed to Emmaus centres located in Surrey, Yorkshire, Kent, Oxford, Bedfordshire, Lancashire, Hampshire, Suffolk, Essex, Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Middlesex.
In London, Freemasons are supporting Only a Pavement Away – a charity, which provides employment for the homeless, ex-offenders and veterans into careers within the hospitality industry. The donation will fund courses in the charity’s life skills programme for homeless people, which will help them to live independently and sustainably. The Freemasons’ donations will also fund an in-home starter kit containing a cookery book, a cooking utensils starter park, and an essential ingredients box. This is in addition to the provision of key kitchen equipment including a cooker, microwave and fridge. Participants will continue to be supported by the charity after the course finishes with access to the Employment Pathway Support service.
In Wales, Brenda Fogg started Hope Restored back in 2010 in order to distribute food and blankets to the homeless community, having been homeless herself for a time. The Freemasons are now supporting the project to help make the lives of homeless that little bit more bearable.
Ms Brenda Fogg said:
“Each and every person who comes through our doors is met with a smile and a warm welcome. Our relaxed friendly atmosphere provides a welcome respite from the harsh realities of their lives, if only for a few hours. I want to thank the Freemasons for their generous support.”
For the last few years, Freemasons in Northumberland have donated both their time and Christmas gifts, to the residents of homeless veterans’ charity Launchpad and will visit the charity on 23 December to deliver fresh fruit and Christmas presents.
These initiatives are just the start of phase two of the Freemasons’ donations, and in January, UGLE will announce the next round of donation packages and charitable initiatives.