A Hednesford town councillor who was instrumental in launching an award-winning homeless outreach and food distribution service is appealing for help to support more people living on the streets.

Hednesford councillor seeks support to expand homeless outreach programme

The move is being backed by the council who are concerned about homelessness in the area.

Deb Cartwright, together with fellow Hednesford resident Helen Allman, started preparing hot food and sandwiches 18 months ago after they were alerted to young people sleeping in a tent on Cannock Chase.

Retired PA Deb, loves to cook despite having Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Helen is a nursery nurse who is committed to helping homeless people.

Both Deb and Helen had already been helping a community group for the homeless in Wolverhampton and wanted to offer the same support in their hometown.

Now, people let Deb and Helen know where they’ve seen homeless  people so that they can help. Their work has been recognised by a commendation from the Support Staffordshire organisation which supports volunteers in a number of sectors.

Lots of alerts are made through the Spotted Homeless Cannock facebook page run by Kelly Harper.

Pye Green Christian Centre also works with the four-strong team, known as Chase Lighthouse, to reach out to those in need while Deb’s partner Carl delivers food, collects small items of furniture and helps oversee the facebook page.

Deb says this is exactly the kind of initiative at the forefront of the recently-elected councillors’  minds – offering tangible and practical help, supporting the whole community of Hednesford and surrounding areas.

She has been awarded a five-star rating from the district’s environmental health team to allow her to prepare meals at home. Meals have been provided in Cannock town centre every Friday night for the last 18 months.

Hot food including sausage and mash, spaghetti  Bolognese, pasta, cakes and a packed lunch, consisting of nutritious and filling food is on offer.

Now she wants to expand the service provided and is appealing for business, organisations and individuals to join forces – by volunteering, offering help or donating food. Deb also plans to boost the service with input from mental health experts, housing support and learning difficulties teams.

Deb said: “It has taken a while to win the trust of people who come along and have a meal. There is so much more that could be done. I’m hoping that people can join me and help support vulnerable people in a hands-on and effective way, through a filling and nutritious meal. But while we know a hot meal helps, there is so much more to be done and we need to widen out our efforts to include a more holistic, wider service. We vet all our volunteers by arranging to meet them before they come out with us. We ensure we protect the identity and safeguard service users.”

Council chairman Paul Woodhead said that thanks to Deb’s work, a great deal of help was on offer.

He added: “As a council it’s vital that we reflect and respond to genuine need. Deb and her fellow volunteers’ work is a great example of what can be achieved.”

As well as Pye Green Christian Centre, other supporters of the initiative include Cherished Coffee Shop in Heath Hayes, JJ Dewsbury Bakery in Hednesford, Hednesford Aldi and Surestore Cannock.  

Anyone wanting to help can email Deb on debbie.cartwright@hednesford-tc.gov.uk.

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