By: Anita Boniface
Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster has teamed up with the St Vincent de Paul Society (SVP) to help people on the streets struggling to keep warm this winter. With the number of people experiencing homelessness growing year on year, the Cardinal is backing the distribution of 12,000 Vinnie Packs to provide a practical way the public can help the homeless keep warm.
Each Pack contains essential items including thermal hat, socks, gloves, toothbrush and toothpaste and information sheet with advice on where to get more support.
Cardinal Nichols said: "Vinnie Packs are a practical way of showing care and concern for homeless people in our midst. Every time we extend a helping hand to those who are most profoundly in need, we share with them the embrace of God's mercy.'
The idea for the packs was suggested by SVP member, Siobhan Garibaldi and Catholic journalist, Jo Siedlecka. Siobhan introduced the initiative to the SVP who organised the logistics and provide some funding together with the public.
Siobhan says: "We want every penny to go on the packs. The project has no administration or staff costs, no office and the storage and packing area is provided us free of charge by the Diocese of Westminster."
While the project is coordinated by the SVP and its members, it has attracted a large amount of vital support from other organisations including the Diocese of Westminster.
Mosques, Christian churches of other denominations, charities and even Community Support Officers have all been involved, together with a number of private companies such as Nationwide Building Society whose staff spent four days making up 5,000 Vinnie Packs in the Autumn.
Two dedicated SVP members hired a van and delivered the packs up and down the country over 48 hours. Siobhan says: "They took the packs up one side of England and down the other, setting off at 7am, and returning nearly two days later at 4 in the morning."
The packs are distributed in shopping centres, hostels, cold weather shelters, church presbyteries and outreach teams. Members of the police force have also been doing their bit to give out the packs in Hayes, West London .
Siobhan says: "There are times in our lives when we all need help, and to be offered something that hopefully will have some practical benefits and help people feel valued and more loved is what the Vinnie packs are really about. As a charity combating loneliness and material poverty, the SVP's support, together with the Cardinal's backing will hopefully inspire the sustainability of Vinnie Packs for the homeless long into the future. "
To donate to Vinnie Packs text: VINP33 followed by the £[amount] to 70070, or donate online at: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fund/svpvinniepacks
To read more about the SVP, visit www.svp.org.uk