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Businesses offer help as more rough sleepers face winter on streets

Initiatives aim to support homeless during the colder months

06 December, 2019 — By Katie Jenkins

Stefan Simanowitz volunteering at Exmouth Market for the ‘Take One, Leave One’ project

BUSINESSES across Islington are pitching in to support the homeless during winter as the number of people sleeping rough on the borough’s streets goes up.

Restaurants and churches will all play host to schemes that aim to support the homeless.

The launch comes a week after Islington’s snap count found 57 people sleeping rough – up from 43 last year.

Among the returning initiatives is the “Take One, Leave One” project in Exmouth Market.

It was first launched in January this year and will see coat rails and clothes bins stationed outside the Church of Our Most Holy Redeemer.

Passers-by are encouraged to leave warm clothes, blankets and hot water bottles which can then be taken for free by homeless people.

Organiser Stefan Simanowitz, who said he took action after being inspired by a similar initiative in Chicago two years ago, said:

“I thought it was such a beautiful, simple idea.

“Anyone can do it. You can do it on a railing, on a lamppost, on a tree.

“You just need to print out a sign saying ‘help yourself’.”

When Mr Simanowitz originally began the project in January, it was only due to run for a week but continued for almost three months. Its return, he said, is an attempt to empower homeless people.

He added: “There’s an invisibility of homeless people in London, and that invisibility is very disempowering. This project is a way of connecting and meeting homeless people, finding out a little more about their lives, helping them in some way just to keep warm over the winter.

“This isn’t a solution, and I stress that very, very strongly. This is a sticking plaster to a massive problem, and it’s a problem that is essential for our government to tackle.”

Neil Wright, 63, was one passer-by supporting the initiative. He said: “Frankly, it’s the least I can do. They’re old clothes, they’re no use to me. Homeless people need them today, tomorrow, next week, and the week after that.

“I don’t know if there’s more homelessness now­a­days, but it’s self-evident walking round London that there’s no less. It’s frightening.”

Another scheme that will be returning for its 22nd year is the Clerkenwell-based StreetSmart campaign which teams up with restaurants across the UK, adding a £1 donation to every bill.

All donations go to local homeless charities.

Jennie Blouet, who works with the organisation, said: “You’re doing life-changing work. Each of the charities we work with is doing something worthwhile. We’re doing our small bit to help the homeless. It’s really sad that it’s happening, and it’s getting worse.”

Eight restaurants in Islington are currently signed up to the scheme, among them Old Royd, 12:51 and the Islington Townhouse.

Zee Nobadula, the manager of Islington Townhouse, said it was a “great opportunity to give back”, adding: “Obviously it’s very, very cold outside. Christmas is a time for giving, and for giving back.”

Italian restaurant La Taberna, in Barnsbury, has announced it will be offering free meals to homeless people every Monday of December.

Lucilla Bonaiuto, who runs the restaurant with her family, said: “My family and I enjoy helping people. We are not doing anything special.

“People should be less selfish and be selfless for the whole year, not only for Christmas. This is what we can do for now. Hopefully we will do more in the following years. We are all different and we all have something to give to others.”

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