Getting To Know Keep Bristol Warm
Those of you with a keen eye will have noticed that a board has appeared outside the front of The Canteen in recent days. This was put together by an initiative called Keep Bristol Warm (KPW) which was launched two years ago to provide direct help to people sleeping rough on Bristol’s streets. The board provides listings of night shelters and services that are available to homeless people. This week, we handed our blog over to Gavyn Emery, who founded Keep Bristol Warm, to explain how the project came about and how it has evolved.
I started Keep Bristol Warm in June 2015 with the main event in December for a big drive on clothing and toiletries. I visited Edinburgh early 2015 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. KBW have launched two more side projects, Pending coffee and Street Paws (which looks after street dogs). We have also now launched Keep Taunton Warm, following our lead here in Bristol.
Pending Coffee is accessible in 15 coffee shops around town. The premise is simple but the outcome is beautiful. Next time you purchase a coffee in Bristol, pay for a second one and leave it ‘pending’ so someone who truly needs a hot drink can claim it. This small gesture is worth far more to a person in need than just the beverage itself; knowing somebody made that simple token gesture to help a person they don’t know can go a very long way.
Over the last year we have held awareness events to keep the general public aware that this issue is still going on. I’m worried how society has tarnished the homeless with a bad brush and we are so consumed in our phones / social media that people seem to forget that there are humans asleep on our streets.
The awareness events are so key and so far we have held: I Am Not Lost (see video above), a Photo Exhibition (all photos taken by the homeless and displayed across town for a week), Soles 4 Souls, in which 197 Hearts representing every homeless person in Bristol were placed on College Green to highlight a continuing problem in the city, but rather than leave it at that, pairs of shoes were then placed on the 197 hearts for the homeless people in need of footwear; Just Say Hello Awareness Video, Lush Charity Pot event, the Community Board and our main clothing event.
Our main event was on Sunday 11th December 2016. The Bearpit — the sunken social hub masquerading as a subway in the centre of Bristol — was fit to burst with charitable donations, volunteers, well-wishers and most importantly, those in need. A communal show of love and solidarity thanks to the continued work of the incredible Keep Bristol Warm team.
For more than a year this initiative has seen “people helping people”. This social movement simply asks that people help people if and how they can. The Bearpit was beset with outpourings of generosity from the people of Bristol. Not simply people handing over an old jumper, but people who had heard about the great work KBW do and took it upon themselves to purchase brand new sleeping bags, coats, rucksacks, shoes…you name it. Not for any reason other than to help someone they don’t and will likely never know. A beautiful gesture, especially in winter.
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 also support One25, Care In Bristol and Spring Of Hope to name a few. 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.
The general public can help in so many ways. Simple things like taking two minutes to have a chat with someone that’s on the streets can make someone feel slightly human again and 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? 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. It’s amazing to know that we are aware, we care and most importantly we want to Keep Bristol Warm.