This Saturday, Jeremy Joseph hosts Clubbing for Homelessness at G-A-Y. Jeremy is working with charity Streets Kitchen and aims to help homeless people in London by collecting items that they really need. All you have to do is donate items that you don’t need and they do in order to get free entry to the club. David Bridle spoke to Jeremy about why he came up with the idea and exactly what items G-A-Y customers can donate on the night.
Hi Jeremy, why are you doing Clubbing for Homelessness?
When I walk home from G-A-Y Late or Heaven at this time of year, I whinge about how cold it is. At the theatres near where I live there are homeless people in the doorways and I get this twinge of guilt. I get to go into the warm and they are out there in the freezing cold all night. You can see the numbers of homeless people increasing and I just think ‘how do they survive the night?’ I felt guilty and wanted to do something. I could give individuals money but I really wanted to do something that was going to help them get through the next few months of cold weather.
How did you decide on the idea to collect things people needed?
I contacted several charities and basically they turned us down because they would rather we just gave money. They say that there are enough beds out there and that people choose to be on the streets plus giving them money direct or clothes just encourages them to stay on the streets. I know they are experienced and thinking long term but I can’t help thinking about the people I see every night and that if someone doesn’t survive the night because of the cold you’re not going to be able to persuade them to take a bed. As with the G-A-Y HIV testing events, this is also about raising awareness as well as helping people direct. I understand that not everyone can afford to give money, but maybe there’s something that you’re not using that could really help someone.
What kind of things would you like people to donate?
You have to ask yourself: what would I want if I was stuck out in the cold? Hats, gloves, socks – in fact socks are so important as feet get cold very quickly. Funnily enough not blankets, as they often get thrown away because they get wet and can’t be dried out. Hot water bottles are very useful because amazingly Streets Kitchen go around and fill them up with hot water. Streets Kitchen do have food that they give out but extra things like chocolate which will keep and provide energy in the night.
What about coats?
Yes, if you’ve got a new winter coat, maybe for Christmas, and your old one is just sitting in the back of your wardrobe, that’s perfect.
And you are also collecting dog food for pets…
Yes, there are a lot of people who are homeless who have dogs. It’s not ideal for pets to eat human food so that can really help. If you buy a tin of dog food and come to G-A-Y on Saturday, you will be getting into the club for the cost of that, which is cheaper than we do on a Friday. You may have an old dog lead or old dog clothes and people need those to look after their pets on the streets.
I’ve read that there’s over 250 homeless people in Westminster alone…
Well, just walking home late at night I think there’s a lot more than that. Every doorway that’s under cover has people sleeping there.
What can you tell us about the charity you are working with, Streets Kitchen?
I was getting frustrated trying to sort this out and had decided that I’d actually get G-A-Y staff to distribute the things we’d collected. At that point my solicitor sent me some information on charities and Streets Kitchen were at the top. As soon as I spoke to them, they were so enthusiastic about our idea and it fitted exactly with what they do and it made perfect sense to work with them. Because of the reaction I’d got from some charities I was nervous and worried that we’d get slated, but the positivity from Streets Kitchen and everyone else since has been amazing. Sometimes you get an idea and it just seems so obvious that you almost ignore it. This is just common sense; we all have things in our wardrobes that we don’t need that someone else can really use. Streets Kitchen are doing all the work, all you have to do is bring it to the club, it’s the right thing to do. If you donate something, when you go home on Saturday night this week and see people on the streets you can know that you’ve done something to help them.
What can you donate?
Hot water bottles
For more on Streets Kitchen’s work go to StreetsKitchen.co.uk
G-A-Y Clubbing for Homelessness is this Saturday 11th February from 10.30pm – 5am. Entry to G-A-Y is free with a donation for the homeless.
G-A-Y is at Heaven, Under the Arches, off Villiers Street, Charing Cross, London, WC2N 6NG.