Fill a Rucksack for November to Help the Homeless in Portsmouth

The Rucksack Event 2017 is collecting and distributing donations for people who are in homeless in Portsmouth. The event is run by two local volunteers, Joanne Vines and Samantha Barcroft and is in its 4th year. Sarah Cheverton reports.

The concept of the Rucksack Event is simple: Portsmouth residents, groups and organisations are asked to fill a rucksack with items to make life better for homeless people, bring it to Portsmouth Football Club on 11th November and a range of charities, churches and services will distribute the donations to people who are homeless.

This is the campaign’s 4th year and in the previous 3 years, Samantha and Joanne estimate they have collected and distributed more than 13,000 rucksacks and donations from Portsmouth residents straight to local homeless people.

Joanne said, ‘This will be my fourth year of running the project along with my friend Sammy.

‘Fill a rucksack with items that will help a homeless person, like socks, toiletries, gloves, jumpers, and so on. If you can’t fill a rucksack, that’s fine, we take in donations of toiletries, long life food and sleeping bags as separate items. Any donation – however small – is always welcome.’

Residents can take their donations to Portsmouth Football Club between 10am – 4pm on 11th November 2017.

‘On the day there will also be lots of representatives from local charities, organisations, and churches who work directly with the homeless. They will take your donations away and start distributing them over the winter months.

‘We also collect dog food for homeless people who have dogs.’

The project is entirely voluntary and runs on goodwill alone – no money is taken.

Feedback to local homelessness service Two Saints following The Rucksack Event last year illustrates the difference the project makes to people who are homeless in Portsmouth.

“I needed a new rucksack as mine had got torn and wet from sleeping rough.”

“The rucksack I had was too small I was able to get a large one  from the Day Centre to fit my sleeping bag in. Much better than carrying it around in a black bin bag.”

“The rucksack the Day Centre gave me was brand new. Brilliant!”

“All my stuff got stolen when I left my tent. I was able to get a rucksack, clothing and a sleeping bag from the Day Centre.”

“I got a rucksack for myself and my girlfriend; she liked hers it was pink with sequins , very girlie.”

Joanne and Sammy hope that this year will be their best year yet; and with homelessness in Portsmouth having risen significantly in recent years, the need has never been greater.

In 2015, Portsmouth City Council undertook and published a ‘Rapid Scoping Health Needs Assessment of Homeless People in Portsmouth’ that reported:

Public Health England found that in 2015 Portsmouth’s rate of homelessness of 5.3  per thousand households was significantly higher than the national rate of 2.3 per thousand households. In Portsmouth in 2014, 1,884 households approached Housing Options (Portsmouth City Council’s advice and information service for anyone over 16 with a housing need) because of imminent oractual homelessness.

A report from the Homeless Working Group of Portsmouth City Council published in June 2017 states:

The number of supported bed spaces in the City is 205, of which 160 is for single people. During the past year there have been 387 referrals for supported housing from single people.

Similarly, the statutory data (legally required by government) on homelessness statistics for Portsmouth in the table below – also taken from the report to the Homeless Working Group – shows that demand on local services is greater than local provision for homeless people in Portsmouth.

Table taken from the findings report of Portsmouth City Council’s Homelessness Working Group, June 2017 showing statutory homeless data 2014 – 16

The rise in homelessness in Portsmouth is mirrored across the country. A report published by national homelessness charity Crisis in August 2017 found 159,000 households are sleeping rough or living in unsuitable temporary accommodation and experiencing other forms of acute homelessness, a rise of nearly a third since 2011.

Policy responses – both locally and nationally – are often inadequate to tackle the rising problem. Crisis estimate that overall numbers of people rough sleeping is set to rise by three quarters over the next decade, if the government do not take action.

With homelessness across the city and country set to rise, Joanne and Samantha believe it has never been more important for people to get involved in the Rucksack Event 2017. The organisers need residents to donate, but where this isn’t possible, helping to spread the word about the project is equally important.

‘Social media is our only way of getting the event out there,’ said Joanne, ‘so it’s all about share, share and share!’

You can help spread the word about the Rucksack Event by sharing it on Facebook. The Rucksack Event 2017 takes place at Portsmouth Football Club on 11th November 2017, from 10am to 4pm.