Challenging the cycle of poverty to free families from crisis

Two incredible charities helping “tired, desperate and hopeless" people rise up from surviving to thriving will receive a fantastic financial fillip from this year’s Staff Festival fundraising.

Homeless Street Angels Co-founders and Directors, Becky and Shelley Joyce

Challenging the cycle of poverty to free families from crisis. February 2023

Reflecting a story playing out in cities across the UK, poverty levels have soared in Leeds as the cost of living crisis impacts families already struggling to make ends meet. Many have been forced to make the cruel choice between food or fuel, while in extreme cases, the spiral of decline has even robbed them of the roof over their heads.

Homeless Street Angels and Zarach are two of the organisations trying to reverse this tragic trend. Homeless Street Angels provides hot meals, clothing and other essentials for people living rough in the city, while Zarach delivers beds and basics to children in poverty.

Without government funding, however, both charities rely almost exclusively on donations to continue their life-changing work. Thanks to your votes, they will now share the proceeds from this year’s Staff Festival – vital support that comes as a timely boost to both good causes. Engaging with the wider Leeds community is also a key theme of the University’s values and responsibilities.

Amazing news

Shelley Joyce, Homeless Street Angels Co-founder and Director, said: “This is amazing news!

“We’re busier than ever at the moment, and as we aren’t government funded, we rely solely on the generosity of the community to continue doing what we love to do. Thank you so much for your support.”

Alice Smart, Zarach Fundraising and Engagement Lead, said: “The team at Zarach is delighted to have been selected as one of the chosen charities for the Staff Festival. 

“Too many local families are tired, desperate and hopeless. Thousands of children in Leeds are going to sleep hungry and cold, without a proper bed of their own. Our mission is to give every head a bed so that every child can have a good night’s sleep, giving them the best opportunity to succeed at school. 

“If we don’t act now, then these cold, hungry and tired children won’t be able to engage in education. They won’t get the tools they need to challenge the cycle of poverty and free their families from crisis.”

Challenging the cycle of poverty to free families from crisis. February 2023

One of the Homeless Street Angels volunteers delivering vital supplies to people living rough on the streets of Leeds

Reversing the spiral of homelessness

Volunteers with Homeless Street Angels – a multi award-winning charity established in 2016 – provide vital outreach services on the streets of Leeds every Thursday night, handing out more than 100 hot meals, warm clothes, toiletries, sleeping bags, tents and more. 

Support is offered with rehousing, often helping decorate and furnish new properties as well. Once rehoused, the charity continues to provide ongoing support to clients through food parcels and any additional help they might require.

Shelley added: “We believe homeless and marginalised people are capable of change, but they will only achieve their full potential when offered a safe, supportive, empowering and non-judgemental environment. It’s our vision to provide such an environment to help reverse the spiral of homelessness.

“We aim to create a bond and trust with our clients to help them work towards a better life, growing their self-esteem, confidence and aspirations.”

Challenging the cycle of poverty to free families from crisis. February 2023

Bedding supplies are delivered to another child in Leeds by Zarach

Lasting and positive change

Zarach aims to bring lasting and positive change to those children growing up in the grips of poverty through bed bundle deliveries, tailored support packages, raising awareness, advocating policy change and by galvanising people and resources across the UK.

Alice added: “A complete Zarach bed bundle costs £500, but thanks to sponsors and donations, it costs the charity just £150. That means every £150 you raise will ensure a child living in poverty has a bed of their own.

“We’re active in schools and in the community. We see the problems poverty causes every day. We understand more should be done to help, and we have the skills, passion and drive to make an immediate and real difference.”

Nearly 3,000 bed bundles have been delivered across the city so far, with 25 new referrals received every week.

Verity Bedford-Read, Pathways to Law Coordinator and Social Science Outreach Officer at the University, was among those colleagues to nominate Zarach to be the Staff Festival’s chosen charity.

She said: “I’m over the moon Zarach has been selected.

“One in five children in Leeds now lives in poverty and this is set to get worse, meaning Zarach’s work is more important than ever. The positive impact it has on local families is immeasurable, and this charity is hugely deserving of the funding and publicity this support will bring.”

Staff Festival Project Manager, Jo Westerman, said: “I can’t think of two more deserving causes to benefit from this year’s Staff Festival proceeds.

“It’s heart-breaking to learn so many people in Leeds are living in such desperate circumstances. The cost of living crisis has only served to exacerbate these issues, so I’m delighted we have the opportunity to support the incredible work these two charities undertake to bring comfort and hope to those in real need.”

Packed programme

After a break of three years due to COVID-19 restrictions, plans are in full swing for this summer’s exciting instalment of the Staff Festival, with a packed programme of events in the pipeline.

All colleagues, family and friends are invited to join us on campus on 30 June for an enjoyable afternoon of activities, full details of which will be announced nearer the time.

Both of this year’s chosen charities will also be offered stalls at the event to raise much-needed funds and generate further awareness of the causes so close to their hearts.

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