Andy Gardiner, Funeral Director at Wm Dodgson & Son Funeral Directors, Moortown, spent his Friday night helping feed and clothe Leeds’ homeless population after being overwhelmed with donations from the local community.
He was shocked to see wheelchair users and couples with babies among those trembling in the cold as he handed out food, clothes and toiletries in the city centre with volunteers from Feed Leeds Homeless Project.
He said: “It’s saddening but not surprising to learn that throughout the UK, homeless numbers have risen since the government extended the retirement age to 67.
“Kids leave schools to fewer opportunities and it’s a vicious cycle. If you don’t have a job, you cannot afford a home. And if you don’t have a fixed abode, it’s nearly impossible to gain employment.”
Andy was inspired to help rough sleepers by his wife, Janice, who previously worked night shifts at St Anne’s Resource Centre and had only good things to say about supporting such a noble cause.
Andy discovered Feed Leeds Homeless Project online and was taken by how people from a variety of backgrounds combined their skills to support homeless people around Leeds.
He said: “One person makes hot rice-based meals while Magda, the Coordinator of Feed Leeds Homeless Project, makes vegetable soups, flasks of coffee and stacks of baguette sandwiches.”
As a funeral director under the respected Wm Dodgson & Son name, Andy was able to use his extensive connections with local families to encourage donations of jackets, jeans, socks, gloves, scarves, hats, blankets and more for the initiative, as well as from his friends and family.
He said: “Some people delivered directly to my home or the funeral home while I arranged to collect from others. I was truly humbled by everyone’s generosity as well as the quality of the donations, it was an amazing response.”
Janice got in touch with her colleague Beverley Kenny, Deputy Director of Catering at the University of Leeds, who also arranged a large delivery of biscuits, tea, tinned vegetables, juices, toilet rolls, plastic cutlery and more.
About 15 Feed Leeds Homeless Project volunteers met up at Leeds Market and spent Friday night handing out the large number of donated items gathered by Andy and others around the city centre.
Andy described: “A queue immediately formed, and we were able to help everyone in it. I was sad to see a heavily pregnant lady and a man on crutches with one leg visibly trembling in the cold.”
Magda said: “We are thankful for absolutely everything people like Andy do for Feed Leeds Homeless Project. Our dream is for there to come a day where every homeless person has a warm home, clean clothes, good job and hot meal every day.
“We trust and know that dreams do come true. For now, we are sharing what we have so the world around us can be a little bit better.”
Andy hopes donors will continue their support as he plans more handouts with Feed Leeds Homeless Project.
Donations can be made towards the initiative at Wm Dodgson & Son, 384 Harrogate Road, Moortown, LS17 6PY.