Benn Moore – We interview local heroes doing their bit to address homelessness in the UK
Benn is the founder of Be Moore Sheltered, a London based initiative collecting clothes donations to distribute to shelters ahead of Christmas.
What’s the concept?
Be Moore Sheltered is a public clothes donation that takes place twice a year, with the bigger event taking place a few weeks before Christmas. I advertise solely across social media and via word of mouth which has worked well for the most part, allowing us to collect thousands of warm items year on year. Everything donated is then evenly distributed to independent shelters across the city ahead of Christmas to make sure those less fortunate have something warm for the colder months. If people donate money, then this is used to buy extra provisions such as sanitary products or underwear. Anyone is welcome to come by to drop their unwanted items off but everyone is encouraged to stay for a while, chat and enjoy themselves.
How and why did you decide to set it up?
It was 5 years ago now and to be totally honest, the first year I had no plan at all. Living in London all my life I’ve seen rough sleeping go from something relatively rare to being frighteningly commonplace within the city, hitting new record highs last year. I remember that the first year we had a particularly harsh winter and the thought of so many vulnerable people being out on the streets at night hit me pretty hard. I headed to the shops one afternoon and bought a ton of gloves, hats, and scarves to hand out to anyone I saw sleeping rough but it didn’t feel like enough. I got home and had a big clear out of all my old clothes. Anything warm I hadn’t worn in a while I stuffed in a rucksack and headed back out to pass on to someone. There were so many items I was just hoarding and it got me thinking that I can’t be the only one doing it. The next day I set up an event on Facebook, hired out a pub and invited everyone I knew to come and drop stuff off with the promise I would handle the rest. The truth of it is, everyone could probably do with a clear out so why not do it in the knowledge you’re helping someone else along the way?
What were the big barriers to getting started?
Getting the word out. I rely heavily on social media but also on friends (and friends of friends) sharing across their own profiles which can be a struggle. A lot fewer people are active across Facebook with every year that passes, so communicating via that channel is becoming increasingly tough even though people know the event will be there.
What’s been the biggest challenge so far?
Similar thing — trying to stay aware of the best places online to communicate with people. Last year, a week before the Christmas event was due to take place, Facebook deleted the event with no notice. After chasing them, I found out it was apparently to do with a link that had gone bad, but by the time I got it back up the damage had been done. A lot of people thought I had canceled and the turnout on the day was nowhere near what it had been the year before, which was a shame. Important lesson learned though.
What does the future look like for Be Moore Sheltered?
This year I’m testing out a model to bring the brand and event into offices. I’m keeping the premise the same and simple. If we can get employees bringing in a bag of clothes across a certain week in the knowledge that the pickups and drop-offs are all being handled then we could raise a lot more year on year. I’m also hoping to be able to raise a small amount of funding to be able to host in a bigger venue and promote a little wider across the city.
What have you learned about the basics of having a (and feeling at) home?
How much we take it for granted. I appreciate that’s a cliche but it’s so important. We often see people sleeping rough and we think of the cold in the first instance but having worked with the shelters for a few years now there’s so much more we fail to even think about. Putting on clean underwear in the morning, brushing our teeth, having access to feminine hygiene products, having a shower or simply going to sleep feeling safe.
How can people do their bit?
I always recommend the rucksack approach that I mentioned earlier and that I still do every day in the winter. Pop to the shops and buy a few pairs of gloves, hats, and scarves and then always keep one of each in your bag if you have the room. They add barely any weight to you but on a blisteringly cold night, offering them to someone sleeping rough could make all the difference.
If your office would like to donate warm clothes to Be Moore Sheltered get in touch with HomeHero on firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll send the next steps.
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