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Amber selling her merch

Fundraising for Homeless Oxfordshire – Amber’s story

Tuesday, 23 August, 2022

Fundraising is a vital part of Homeless Oxfordshire and, with government funding at its lowest, our fundraisers help us to make a difference in homeless people’s lives every day, by raising money for a good cause. Every single penny helps to feed, clothe, educate and house Oxfordshire’s homeless.

 

But it’s not just about the money. Fundraising also helps promote our message and goals, encouraging others to get involved and spread the word.

Anyone can fundraise for Homeless Oxfordshire to help people in need out of homelessness.

Each one of us can make a huge difference to someone who is going through really rough times.

 

If you are interested or have more questions about fundraising, you can write to us at: fundraising@homelessoxfordshire.uk

The reality of fundraising

We have asked one of our fundraisers, Amber, to talk about her experience and how it all started.

 

Why have you decided to help support Homeless Oxfordshire?

My sister Hannah, utilised Homeless Oxfordshire services 2016 to 2017, before she passed away in June 2017.

Because of my sister, I was occasionally in touch with them: when we’d go visit Hannah and when we’d ring up to speak to her. There was a sort of vague connection between me and Homeless Oxfordshire already.

 

When Hannah passed away, I really wanted to give something back to Homeless Oxfordshire. I saw Hannah’s progression from the start to the end, and I can tell she was in a lot better place.

And that was down to Homeless Oxfordshire supporting her and making her believe in herself more.

 

Fundraising and volunteering: how did you start?

I started with a collection at my workplace, gathering toiletries, biscuits and warm clothing for Christmas in 2017.

I also tried running to raise funds: I did a half marathon in 2018, and then realised I hated running more than I thought I did.

But there are also other ways to help!

I really wanted to do something where like people got to keep something instead of just asking for money. Therefore, in 2019, I set up a project called Amber Lights in Oxford.

 

What is Amber Lights?

This project incorporates three different products.
We have the Hann Bags, which are named after Hannah, they are tote bags featuring the Oxford Skyline, in day and night time to represent homelessness being 24/7. They were designed by my friend Hillary so it’s a unique design as well.

When someone buys a Hann Bag, the profits go towards purchasing toiletry packs for Homeless Oxfordshire.

Then I created Skyline clothing. The inspiration came from someone who once told me it’d be really nice to see that design on a hoodie. So I was like “Great shout, thanks for the idea!” and I started working on t-shirts, hoodies and cropped sweaters.

The profits from Skyline clothing go towards Homeless Oxfordshire’s Welfare Fund, so that can go to like purchasing welfare items, taking someone out for coffee or paying for a taxi if someone has an appointment instead of going on public transport and preventing any anxiety.

And then lastly, there is the Pawsome range for dogs.

When Hannah was at Homeless Oxfordshire, there was a dog called Maverick, a Staffy, who she really loved and went for walks with around Oxford.

Dogs provide amazing companionship and unconditional love for people who find themselves living on the streets, so I really wanted to do something down that angle as well. So again, Hillary created a “paw-some” dog-themed design for me. The profits from these sales are donated to Homeless Oxfordshire to pay for food, vaccinations or healthcare for the dogs who live there.

You talked about the progress that Hannah made while she was with Homeless Oxfordshire. Was there some specific kind of support she was getting that you thought really had an impact on her?

I think it was having someone actually sit down and just give her that space to talk things through, without being judgemental. Maybe she didn’t feel she was being listened to at times prior to being in that position.

When it all started, around 2015, it was hard: Hannah might have been there physically, but not the Hannah I knew.

Towards the end, last time we saw her, we took a photo album in. We were talking about the photo album and she felt more like my sister again.

Obviously, I wish she was here now, but it was great to see that she had been feeling better about herself and things were sort of progressing.

I think having a free, safe space and someone to talk to is really important.

 

I remember I saw Hannah once and she had this lovely top on her. And I asked her where she got it from. She replied there wase a wardrobe at Homeless Oxfordshire where you could get new clothes and I just thought it was lovely. She also said one night she was extra cold, she just went down to the staff and they found out a pair of fluffy socks.

It’s all these little things that make such a huge difference and it makes them feel valued.

I think you lose your identity a bit when you’re homeless. So for a charity to make them feel more like themselves is wonderful.  I think Homeless Oxfordshire do an incredible job, and I’m really, really pleased to support them in Hannah’s memory and to keep her memory alive. So hopefully Amber Lights will continue for many years and keep growing.

 

What do you think of Homeless Oxfordshire’s impact on the local community in the past few years?

The Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdowns inevitably restricted what people could do (e.g. staff, volunteers, fundraisers). But often even little things can make an impact: it’s just the time that they give in to people and making that little bit extra effort.

This is a slightly separate tangent, but Hannah had a Christmas day there and we saw her on the Boxing Day. Homeless Oxforshire’s team had presents for everyone, they organised a proper Christmas dinner, and they had clients doing games and really bringing each other together on a day that can be incredibly tough for many.

It’s just the little touches they do and how they keep pushing out against the stigma of homelessness.

They help raise awareness: it can happen to everyone.

I think that education is really key to getting other people on board, because especially during my time with Hannah, I found people were quite judgmental towards me and Hannah’s situation.

 

I think that Homeless Oxfordshire do a great job in reducing that stigma and trying to normalise the situation because obviously, with COVID and bills going up, homelessness is going to increase as a result.

 

What do you think the level of awareness is about homelessness?

I think it was very limited when I started three years ago. A lot of people that bought off me will then be like “I didn’t realise this”  or “I didn’t realise it was this bad”. I think everyone has, in their head, an image of homelessness, and I don’t think women are ever incorporated into that.

People seem to think it’s a man thing. I try and talk a lot about how it happens to anyone.

For example, Hannah had a lovely flat and a degree. She wanted to get into teaching, but life didn’t go to plan.

Initially, I was quite nervous talking about Hannah, but the more I talk about it, the more confident I get.

I think it’s important for people to see that, Hannah was once their friend, a family member. And this is what happened. So there’s nothing to say it can’t happen to anyone else.

 

What homelessness issues do you think people are most ignorant about?

When you think about homelessness issues, you wouldn’t think of periods? How do women deal with that? It’s all those taboo subjects, that potentially might make you even more vulnerable on the streets.

Hannah suffered from asthma, that made her more vulnerable.

I find it hard to think that like Oxford is such a capital of education, yet we have such a huge problem with homelessness.

And it’s such a diverse city. To see that, every time I pop in, there’s some other beds that are set up in a doorway is heartbreaking.

 

How would you describe Homeless Oxfordshire in one word?

Fantastic.

 

We thank Amber for sharing her story as well as Hannah’s, as it can be quite difficult to talk about someone we lost. Her experience is a powerful message that behind our idea of “homelessness”, there are real people, families, friends.  Amber does an amazing job helping us raise awareness about homelessness in Oxfordshire and supporting Homeless Oxfordshire.

 

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

You can read more about Amber Lights in Oxford on Amber’s website.

 

Interested in fundraising for Homeless Oxfordshire?

Why don’t you sign up for one of our fantastic challenges to help change people’s lives in the county?

 

There are challenge events for everyone: running, swimming, hiking and much more! https://homelessoxfordshire.uk/challenges/

 

Joining is super easy!

 

  1. Choose a challenge and let us know
  2. Train, set up and promote your fundraising page
  3. Take part in the challenge and show what you can achieve!

 

And if you don’t fancy our challenges, you can still organise your own fundraising, run, jump, bake or dance, do something that you love and raise money to help people in our community.

 

From fundraising planning, creating posters and staying motivated, our fundraising team will be here to support you!

For more information, suggestions and tips, please write to us at: fundraising@homelessoxfordshire.uk

Amber selling her merch

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