Q&A | Donate a coat to keep the UK’s homeless warm, with Wrap Up

Winter is always a particularly difficult time for rough sleepers in the UK, and with the number of homeless on the rise the need to protect them from the elements is too. Human Appeal have responded by partnering with Hands On London to collect and redistribute used coats to those who need them. Sarah checked in with the NGO’s UK Programmes Manager Samra Said to find out more about their Wrap Up campaign, which runs this week, and how people can support it.

Human Appeal is a British Muslim faith-based charity. What sort of work does the organisation normally do, and where?
Human Appeal is one of the UK’s fastest growing charities. With a presence in 25 countries, spanning Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and here in the UK, we help in times of crisis and deliver sustainable development programmes in the world’s poorest nations.

What motivated the organisation to collect coats for homeless in the UK? How did Wrap Up start?
Wrap Up is inspired by Hands On London’s Wrap Up London campaign. We partnered with Hands On London to launch Wrap Up Manchester in 2016 and we are delighted to run the campaign for its second year. We run the campaign during our winter appeal, which is aimed at tackling the issue of homelessness in the UK and helping the most vulnerable to survive the winter.

Samra (centre) collecting coats at Manchester’s Piccadilly station

Last year, due to the sharp rise in rough sleeping, Human Appeal partnered with One Roof Leicester to pilot a multi-faith night shelter project that rotates around 7 places of worship, with volunteers offering food and companionship for 10 rough sleepers. This year we are funding drop-in centre to manage the increasing numbers of people with experiences of homelessness in Manchester.

Wrap Up Manchester is an example of what people can do by contributing in little ways, either by donating their winter coat or raising awareness.

Where we can and where needed, Human Appeal, is committed to respond to people in need, whether here in the UK or in Iraq, Syria, Myanmar, Yemen and elsewhere.

Where is the campaign happening, and how can people support it?
We’re running Wrap Up in Manchester, Glasgow and Birmingham, and are the main charity sponsor for Wrap Up London, which is delivered by Hands On. Wrap Up is intended to make donating coats easy. Simply, people can give their unwanted coat over to one of the drop-off points in Safestore and CollectPlus, and we re-home it to those in dire need. The cut-off date for drop-offs is Friday November 24. You can find more details online.

If people cannot donate a coat, they can show their warmth by donating via text, so we can help the most vulnerable. To donate, text “WUMC60” followed by your donation amount (e.g. “£10”) to 70070.

Last year was the campaign’s first in Manchester, and this year you’ve expanded to Glasgow and Birmingham. Are there plans to grow it further?
Along with Hands On London, we have a vision for Wrap Up to be launched as Wrap Up UK – where we launch a conversation starter to raise awareness on the plight of the most vulnerable amongst our community. That’s what makes us Human Appeal. Building on last year’s success, and the overwhelming and generous response of the Manchester community to our campaign, we have decided to expand the project to provide warmth to those in dire need of it.

“The numbers of rough sleepers in the UK has risen by 133% over 5 years.” That is a huge increase. What is driving it, and how can the rise be stopped?
We are worried about the rising number of rough sleepers in the UK. The solution to the problem requires a holistic approach to end homelessness, as well as engaging people with lived experience of homelessness. We are working with Manchester’s Mayor, Andy Burnham, on his aim to end rough sleeping by 2020.

The Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, visits the collection point at Piccadilly station

At Human Appeal, we have pledged towards the Manchester Homelessness Charter by committing to fund projects that tackle homelessness. The Charter aims to end homelessness in our city by uniting people, organisations and businesses with one shared vision. We encourage the national government and local authorities across the UK to work together to prioritise the issue of homelessness, and put an end to it.

Anti-Muslim sentiment has been bubbling in the UK over the last few years in particular – particularly in relation to Brexit and the migration crisis. What are some of the challenges or frustrations you face as a group of Muslim people trying to support and bring about positive social outcomes?
We are a humanitarian and development organisation. We are committed to saving lives, alleviating poverty, transforming and empowering local communities, whilst championing humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence.

There was some backlash to the Muslim community following the Manchester Arena attack in May this year, but overall there seemed to be a huge amount of solidarity expressed by the people of Manchester. What was Human Appeal’s response to the attack, and how did it affect the local Muslim community?
We tirelessly work to help the poorest communities around the world and here in the UK. Whenever there’s a crisis, we act and help. We have rapidly responded and raised substantial funds for those impacted by this terrible attack. Human Appeal supported the We Love Manchester Emergency Fund, which is a charity set up to help the people affected by the attack at Manchester Arena.

For more information about the Wrap Up campaign, including collection points and times, visit www.humanappeal.org.uk. Follow Samra on Twitter.

Sarah Illingworth is a freelance journalist and Editor at Impolitikal. She has an MSc in Poverty & Development from the University of Manchester. Read more by Sarah.