Two people supported by a south west London homeless charity have been recognised for their exceptional contributions to their communities during the pandemic.
Andy White, a client of SPEAR who found himself homeless after his marriage fell apart, has now won a Kingston-Upon-Thames Mayor’s Community Award.
Kas, a young client of SPEAR, won UK Youth Inspiring Hope Young Person Award out of 355 nominations.
SPEAR has been helping people experiencing homelessness to independence in south west London since 1987 and has been working tirelessly especially in the last year of the Covid crisis.
Andy said: “I’ve come a long way personally, but I wouldn’t have been able to without SPEAR.
“The people are so committed and the job they do is just inspiring. It’s been an absolute pleasure to be a part of SPEAR and I hope I can continue to be involved.”
In Andy’s case, he had to leave his home, his job as a self-employed builder and his possessions like his tools behind as a survivor of domestic violence.
Initially he relied on friends and sofa-surfing, but he ended up sleeping rough which took such a toll on his mental health that he thought about ending his life.
Andy contacted SPEAR and was given a case worker who helped get him into a hostel and start to rebuild his life.
He wanted to “put something back in” to the charity that had supported him and volunteered over 470 hours in the last year at the SPEAR Hub in Twickenham.
Andy has done everything from processing food donations, setting up fetes, moving boxes, assisting the clothes drop-in service, organising and appearing as Santa at the SPEAR’s client Christmas parties in 2019, and to using his lived experience to support others as a certified Peer Mentor Volunteer.
He has also acted as a SPEAR spokesperson in an emergency appeal on Global’s national radio stations.
Royal Borough of Kingston Mayor Councillor Margaret Thompson commented during the award ceremony: “Using your own difficult experiences shows real generosity of spirit, which is brilliant and amazing.
“You have made such a real difference to other people’s lives.”
Kas won her UK youth award for consistently supporting and uplifting residents in their young persons’ hostel throughout the pandemic.
She has contributed to multiple projects that provide practical support to homeless young people and continues to volunteer with the Prisoners Education Trust and NHS vaccination programme.
Rosie Reynolds who manages Springboard, SPEAR’s young persons’ engagement project, works closely with Kas as her key worker.
She said: “We at SPEAR are so proud of Kas’s win. It is recognition of Kas’s approach to life – always looking for ways to raise up those around her and finding the positives in difficult situations.
“She is a vital part of the Springboard programme and, as part of the client steering group, is helping to shape the programme for participants to come.”
While the above programmes are directly and generously funded by trusts and grants, some of which Andy and Kas volunteer for and benefit from, you can also give support to SPEAR in their work with homelessness by going to their website or donating directly to their recently launched crowdfunder appeal.
Featured image credit: SPEAR