Recently Jon Cruddas MP's Havering Coordinator Fay Hough met with, and interviewed Friends of Essex and London Homeless about all of the fantastic charitable work they do locally. The group came to the attention of the MPs office after Jon heard about them through Fay's community networks in Rainham.

After donating two boxes of clothes to the group, Fay wanted to find out more about what services the organisation offer and how they have become such a key part of the community.

1. Who are Friends of Essex & London Homeless?

Friends of Essex & London Homeless are a small non-profit organisation who run an outreach project every Wednesday at Charing Cross, London for people who are homeless, sleeping rough, in temporary accommodation or suffering from poverty. We also help where needed in the surrounding areas of Rainham, Upminster, Hornchurch, Brentwood and Thurrock.

The inspiration to start the group came from spending an evening on the 21st December 2016 helping hand-out blankets, sleeping bags and food to people living on the streets of London. Between then and February 2017 we attended Kings Cross, London continuing the work until we decided to form our own group and move to an area that we had been made aware of that needed help like what we were offering.

We currently have on average 12-14 volunteers for our Wednesday evenings, but we do have a network of people that round up our team to roughly 20 people, that includes all front line and support members.

Steven Stuart and Cheryl Connelly Middleton are the co-founders and are based in Thurrock, the rest of their team is spread across Thurrock, Havering and London respectively.

2. What services do you offer?

We currently supply 300 plus hot meals, 150 plus sandwiches, crisps, water, hot drinks, soups, cakes, toiletry essentials, clothing, shoes and sleeping bags. We also offer a kind word and spend time with people talking and building relationships. We also have on numerous occasions made Street link applications for those that are in need, for example last week we put through an application for a pregnant woman who needed urgent help and support.

3. Do you get support from your local community and how?

We get lots of support from the local community and from further afield with donations of clothes, foods, sleeping bags, etc. Without these donations that we receive regularly we would find it difficult to supply in the quantities we do. We have an Amazon Wishlist which people order from, and a couple of drop off points that will take donations in for us to collect as well as doing many collections as well weekly. We also have Preston's Village Bakery in Upminster & Greggs in Hornchurch & Elm Park that donate every Tuesday which we collect.

4. Do you take on volunteers? If so how can they get involved?

We have increased our Team from Steven & Cheryl to the numbers mentioned above, some come via the current team members, and we also put out requests on our Facebook page to get volunteers who we vet to ensure they are like minded and suited to the Team.

5. What are your hopes for the group in the future; would you like to expand?

We are always looking to expand and improve but funds are at a premium. We rely on the team for the time and donations, also our followers who are extremely generous. We have logistical problems for space as we currently only have the storage of Steven's parent's garage which brings huge challenges. We are desperate for more space that would enable us to expand and grow, but as we are self-funded we don't have sufficient funds to use and have asked on many occasions via social media if anyone could help. We did apply to Havering to ask if they had any storage space but was told not at this time. To enable us to grow we need more space better facilities to cook (as this is currently done in two or three team members homes on a Tuesday and Wednesday, prepping for Wednesday evenings) to store the food, and store all the clothes.