A Croydon man whose mother suffered from homelessness and addiction set up a homeless charity to help others like her.
Stefan Jones, 33, set up the AR Food Project, a Croydon charity which helps not only feed homeless people, but supply them with hygiene essentials and clothing, back in October.
The project aims to help homeless people in the long term as well, linking them up with charities that can get them off the street and doing this themselves on two occasions.
Jones, whose mother was in and out of prison when he was young, explained how that experience influenced his charity work.
Jones said: “It was really tough as a child, it really strained our relationship. Then she started to become really ill and a couple of years after she passed away.
“That put me into a deep depression, from then on, all the chaos from my childhood hit me.
“But after I started climbing out the hole, I began to think how I could help someone like her.
“I wanted to be the person for someone else, that I wish someone had been for her.
“Because I’ve gone through it, I know if my mum was out there I’d want people to treat her well.
“So I treat people how I’d want her to have been treated, I wouldn’t want people shoving cameras in her face. That’s one of my big things.”
During the week, the project does outreach, connecting with homeless people, and every Friday they hand out a requested meal, and then on Sundays they go out with more food, clothes and essentials for those in need.
However, Jones’ first outing to hand out food did not go as planned.
They got there late, didn’t meet many people and then someone even threw the food offered on the ground.
Jones didn’t let that stop him, he rethought his attempts, ironed out issues and tried to help deal with the problems people on the streets were facing.
He got clothes donations from Asda that they were swamped for, and put treating people with dignity and respect at the forefront of everything
Acts of kindness – Friday night, we were out on our weekly outreach providing food and having deep conversations filled…Posted by AR RIHLA Projects on Sunday, 4 April 2021
Each week since they’ve been improving the AR Project until it is what it is today, making sure people get fed, get clothes, personal hygiene products and support.
They have emergency backpacks they hand out to people in need which contain everything someone on the streets might need in the short term.
Over the Easter weekend took some elderly gentlemen to Jumu’ah, which is typical of the outreach work they do, connecting with homeless people on the street.
Looking to the future, Jones and the small AR Food Project team want to build a system to help get homeless people into work, and have them giving back to the community.