Portsmouth High School senior girls were motivated to collect tins and chocolate at their upcoming Harvest Festival, in a moving assembly given by the mother of a recent leaver.
Mrs Donna Ockenden, mother of Caitlin who left PHS last summer and about to start at the University of Leeds, delivered a powerful message to all the girls:
‘Don’t walk by,’ she said. ‘Here is something you can do to really help.
Mrs Ockenden runs The Chichester Four Streets Project, a homeless charity alongside her two daughters and other volunteers.
‘Government figures show there are approximately 320,000 homeless people in Britain,’ she said. ‘Eighty of them live in Chichester district according to recent statistics. The likelihood of homeless people dying before they reach the age of 44 is very high. Increasingly more and more armed forces veterans are living on the streets as it seems the safety net of social service and mental health help has all but disappeared.’
The charity started in 2016 when her two daughters, Caitlin and Phoebe were walking every day to and from the station. Caitlin was in the process of taking part in her Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award and the family became acutely aware of the escalating situation.
‘We saw more and more sleeping bags in doorways,’ Mrs Ockenden said. ‘One morning one person called out and said “help us, we are really hungry”, so we divided up our supper that night and took it out to the group. We have never missed a night since then.’
‘With the help of 30 volunteers, we have never missed a night. We hope to not only feed the homeless but give them back a little bit of dignity and respect.’ The volunteers walk the streets of Chichester in pairs with food, soup and water donated by shops or cooked by others.
‘Please use your Harvest Festival collection next week to donate tins of smooth soup and chocolate bars as these items are easy to swallow. Many of the homeless population have difficulties in swallowing.
‘Don’t walk by.’
The House Captains of Portsmouth High School are encouraging the collection this week, and beyond, to help this worthwhile charity.
Zoë Bushby, 17, House Captain for Bronte House added:
‘It was so thought-provoking and Mrs Ockenden was so passionate about her local charity that I really want to inspire my house to donate as much as they possibly can next week. This is such a worthwhile, local cause and it deserves our help.’
For further information on The Four Streets Project please visit their Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/fourstreetsproject/