Keep Bristol Warm - Getting to know BristolPosted on: 24 Feb 2016
Keep Bristol Warm is not a charity, it is a community initiative. They will never ask for monetary donations; simply donations of your time or items that will help those in need. It is an active movement to demonstrate solidarity and community spirit to the homeless people of Bristol.
Gavyn Emery is the man behind it all, though obviously thousands of people now support it, and we were lucky enough to get a few minutes with him. It really is the most incredible 'movement' and we're very proud to have both him and #KBW in Bristol...
When did you set up Keep Bristol Warm and can you give us a brief history?
I started Keep Bristol Warm in June last year (8 months ago) with the main event in December for a big drive on clothing and toiletries. I visited Edinburgh last year and I was shocked to see so many homeless people in such cold weather so I came home and started to plan what I could do with the support of Bristol to help through the winter. From the main event in December KBW have launched two more side projects. Pending coffee and Street Paws. Pending coffee (thanks to Helen) is accessible in 7 coffee shops around town where you can buy 2 coffees and leave one pending for a homeless or street sleeper to collect a free hot drink. Street Paws (thanks to Mercy) is set up to look after the street dogs. We give out dog coats and dog food to the dogs on the street to help them also keep warm. Street Paws are now at St Mungos every first Wednesday of the month to fall in line with there in house Vet visit. This is perfect for the dogs as they can get a health check and Street Paws can make sure they are warm and have enough food.
Are you from Bristol?
I have lived in Bristol now for 4 years and I have totally fallen in love with this city. I’ve only come from just outside Bath so not to far but this city is incredible. So much to offer and so much love here.
Tell us about the organisation and what its aims and objectives are.
Keep Bristol Warm isn't a charity; we work on love and compassion. We accept donations big or small and feed it out directly on to the streets and to the amazing charities in this city. For example we had just over 50 full boxes of clothing we donated to the Julian Trust in December for them to continue giving it out, KBW have also support One25, Care In Bristol, Spring Of Hope and only yesterday we dropped off two sacks full of food to St Mungos. KBW will continue to push out as much clothing and needed items to help on the streets and to help the shelters to continue the great work they do. Through receiving donations and pushing them out we are trying to raise the awareness in this city. KBW want to challenge the perception that homeless people are any different from the rest of us. Homelessness begins when something bad happens and you don’t have family or friends around to help. It could happen to any of us.
Different numbers are always banded about by politicians about the number of homeless in a city or country. What’s the real story in Bristol – how many people are currently homeless?
KBW know that the number of homeless people and street sleepers on the council’s reports isn't a true likeness. You can walk the streets day or night and count more than what’s on the council’s reports. It’s hard to put a number on how many people are homeless and living on the streets. KBW are about people helping people and political/reports are something we don't get to involved with.
With the temperature hitting negative Celsius again this week it has to be the worst time of year to be on the streets. How can people help aside from donating money?
General public can help in so many ways. Simple things like taking two minutes to have a chat to someone that’s on the streets can make someone slightly human again and to show them that we do care. If you would like to help why not have a look through your wardrobe and see if there are any warm clothes you could donate to them. Simple things like a hot drink or some hot food I'm sure is always welcome. A bit of love and compassion goes a long way and we have to remember that these guys on the streets are human as well just like you and me so a simple hello, how are you? goes a long way.
Has Pending Coffee launched in Bristol yet? How can people get involved?
Pending Coffee has launched in 7 coffee shops around Bristol. It’s a fantastic movement with backing of some great coffee shops around town. It’s so simple to help and such an effective way to help the homeless and street sleepers keep a little warmer. Whenever you see a pending coffee poster advertise pop in and buy two coffees. One will sit pending for someone that needs a hot drink. Here is a list of coffee shops that are taking part...
CURRENT PARTICIPATING VENDORS:
Roll for the Soul
How do you find running a volunteer organisation in Bristol?
Getting volunteers to help in this amazing city is overwhelming. I had a team of about 30 volunteers help at the main event in December. People helping the homeless and street sleepers fill rucksacks with much needed items as well as a team of First Aiders just in case and a couple of Security for everyone’s safety. I am truly thankful to every single person that is helping and helped because at the end of the day this is a community movement I'm just the driver of the bus it’s the Bristol people that make KBW work.
What companies are stepping up to the mark and helping you make a difference?
Companies like Lush, Superdry, Shiner, Dental hospitals, all the coffee shops and dog groomers have really helped push KBW forwards with some amazing donations for us to push out. Hopefully there will be more to come and are wanting to help this city Keep Warm in the future.
Is there a solution to the crisis?
Yes there has to be a solution. It’s not a quick fix and it’s the underlying issues we have to address as well as the issues we are addressing. Mental illness, social acceptance, educating, there are so many. Houses is an issue and I know there are some amazing people like Home Less in this city pushing to get this sorted. I believe giving them a roof is a great help but there needs to be a care platform to get them back into society and help them live independently in a house or shared accommodation. Helping them get back to work so they can pay the bills, rent, overheads, living costs all of these have to be taken into account as this is hard enough to do when we have our own homes to look after whilst working in a full time job. I struggle and I’m sure you do so a platform starting from the bottom and working up is key.
Where do you see Keep Bristol Warm in 5 years time?
In 5 years time I would like to see Keep Bristol Warm in several main cities helping directly on the street as well as helping the charities and shelters that are in those cities building great connections with the homeless and street sleepers as well as their community to push forwards and help with clothing, toiletries and things that are needed on the streets and in the shelters. Pending coffee and Street Paws to be live in every city and to keep pushing awareness as much as we can. We are people giving to people, its so simple and so effective. KBW have been nominated for a community award in the Bristol Post with AirBus and the funding from this (if we win) will help us grow and push out into different spectrums. Coupons are being printed everyday for the next month and Keep Bristol Warm have a unique code you have to fill out on the coupon each day. KBW code 1028. I am trying to build networks across different cities for them to do what I am doing here. There is lots that I would like to achieve this year with health packs we can push out across the summer to getting a website launched, having a KBW app, publishing a book, having a trike we can use around town to get things to the homeless as well as so many other things, the list goes on. We have only been going for 8 months so we are very small still but launching 3 key things in this city to help gives me so much courage and passion to keep driving forwards and making a difference to another human being.
What advice would you give to anyone that is homeless already, or on the verge of becoming homeless? Where can they go for help?
There are some great places you can go if you are homeless or on the verge of becoming homeless. Organisations like Avon & Bristol Law Centre can provide expert and holistic legal advice free at the point of access. Ashley Community Housing is an award winning specialist housing and training provider with offices in Bristol. Citizens Advice Bureau offer advice to people at risk of becoming homeless. 1625 supports homeless 16 - 25 years old in the South West to live independently through housing, skills, confidence building, education, training and jobs. For the homeless places like Julian Trust Night Shelter operate the night shelter 5 times a week throughout the year serving up to 90 hot evening meals and providing overnight accommodation for up to 18 homeless people. Caring in Bristol provides vital support to homeless and vulnerable people of all ages, all year round. This includes Bristol Nightstop and operating the shelter on a 24/7 basis throughout the Christmas period. Spring of Hope Women's Emergency Night Shelter provides beds for up to 12 women 5 nights a week and is Bristol's only women's night shelter. The shelter helps women from all walks of life and the team of female volunteers take time to get to know each other to find out each individual case and needs. Bristol Reconnect is a membership based organisation for people who have faced the severe and multiple disadvantages of addictions, mental health issues, homelessness and/or imprisonment – often known as 'complex needs', and some allies who, together, want to: make a positive contribution to the way services provide support to others facing these disadvantages, through creating and utilising opportunities for people with personal experience to be involved in the development and steering of these services, give people with these experiences a voice and create opportunities for our members to make positive contributions to the wider community.
Born and raised in the suburbs of Swansea, Jimmy moved to Bristol back in 2004 to attend university. Passionate about live music, sport, science and nature, he can usually be found walking his cocker spaniel Baxter at any number of green spots around the city. Call James on 078 9999 3534 or email Editor@365Bristol.com.