'We bring hope for them': Crouch End homeless charity out on the streets

Jorawar Singh Rathour (left) with other volunteers from the London Homeless Welfare Team

Jorawar Singh Rathour (left) with other volunteers from the London Homeless Welfare Team - Credit: London Homeless Welfare Team

A Crouch End-based homeless charity won two national awards for its work supporting homeless people in north London. 

London Homeless Welfare Team was honoured at the Markel Third Sector Care Awards, receiving the Sector Development Award and the Make a Difference Award.

The charity was founded in 2020 by Jorawar Singh Rathour and provides clothing, food, hygiene packs, and mental health provisions to homeless people in north London through outreach programmes.

The 44-year-old said: “By going out to provide food directly to homeless people we come across many that would never have come to us unless we had gone to them. 

“This can be for many reasons maybe they are intoxicated or don’t want to be in touch with anyone, or they’ve just given up hope. We provide that hope for them.” 

Crouch End-based Jorawar has previously experienced homelessness himself, having lived on the street for 22 weeks following his divorce. 

“It was November and it was a lonely and terrifying time," he said. "When I look back it actually feels very surreal and like it didn’t actually happen, like it was just a bad dream.”

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Having to deal with the cold and uncertainty Jorawar began drinking and was only saved when his family found him and brought him into rehab. 

He said: “I’m still recovering but I was one of the lucky ones. The guys on the streets they can become your family and I felt kind of guilty getting back on my feet. It felt like I left them behind.”

So, instead of returning to his previous role as a maintenance contractor Jorawar became an accredited psychotherapist in 2019 to help other people with addictions.

On New Year’s Day 2020 he launched his own charity, beginning with an outreach programme in Finsbury Park to provide homeless people with basic food supplies like coffees and sandwiches. 

Then, during the pandemic, the London Homeless Welfare Team was one of the first organisations in the UK to set up an initiative giving out hygiene packs to homeless people to help them protect themselves from contracting coronavirus. 

Most of the charity’s volunteers are mental health first aiders and Jorawar is a trained naloxone responder, meaning he can administer medication injections when someone is experiencing a drug overdose.

For volunteer Amrita Kaur, ensuring the mental wellbeing of homeless people is a priority. 

The 31-year-old said: “It’s not always about shelter, it’s not always about money and often it’s actually just about interacting with them and making them feel heard. 

“I wish everyone walking past someone who is homeless would just say ‘hello’ or ‘good morning’ because it just makes their day to know that there is some interaction out there for them.”

Amrita has been working with the charity since the beginning and is now heavily involved in the outreach programmes. 

The South Tottenham sales associate said: “I love how it’s so personal, it’s not just that we’re donating money but we can actually see where it goes and physically go out and look for people.

“Sometimes they don’t need anything and don’t accept anything but they’re just so happy that we’ve acknowledged them and spoken to them.”

In recent months, the London Homeless Welfare Team has stepped up its efforts to provide for those affected by the rise in living costs. 

Currently run by just six dedicated members, the charity is hoping to expand its support provisions throughout Islington, Haringey, Hackney and Waltham Forest. 

It partnered with Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury’s, which provide it with surplus stock food and secured several smaller funds. 

To make up the remaining cost, the charity set up a crowdfunding project and is hoping to reach its target of £10,000 soon. 

Jorawar said: “It’s quite a personal matter for me because I want to make sure I am giving something back to the community and I have a very specific skill set which allow me to do that. 

“Gaining the trust of anybody on the street is very, very hard so when I can tell them that I’ve been an addict, that I’ve been homeless they want to hear more about it. 

“I want to share that experience with other people.”

To donate to the London Homeless Welfare Team, visit gofund.me/cbe3340c