Each Saturday, whereas Londoners prepare for weekend revelry, a bunch of passionate volunteers begins unpacking tables, flasks, and crates of meals onto one of many metropolis’s busiest streets. Who’s Hussain? — a voluntary organisation dedicated to tackling injustice on an area and world scale — units up for its weekly meals drive, providing a scorching meal, dialog and a dose of hope to London’s homeless inhabitants.
On an icy day in January, International Citizen headed all the way down to Charing Cross, London, to learn the way the charity is making a distinction on town’s streets.
The venture takes its title from the seventh century revolutionary determine, Hussain ibn Ali. The grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, Hussain is celebrated as a voice who spoke reality to tyranny and stood up for the oppressed. Whereas its origins lie in Islamic historical past, Who’s Hussain is a non-religious organisation that welcomes volunteers from all backgrounds, dedicated to serving to anybody in want, irrespective of their color or creed.
“It’s about spreading love and humanity and hope,” says 27-year-old Shah Abbas, who works on the earth of finance by day and volunteers as a workforce chief every week. “I noticed a poster for Who’s Hussain on the tube in London. His ideas had been to battle towards injustice, inequality, stand towards oppression and provides again to the neighborhood you reside with. It’s one thing that we’d like on this world proper now.”
Two volunteers practise their smiles because the visitors arrive.
The queue of individuals lining up for a scorching meal is proof of this want. In response to CHAIN (Mixed Homelessness and Data Community) eight,096 individuals slept tough in some unspecified time in the future in London throughout 2015/16 — an increase of seven% from the earlier 12 months. Between 2010 and 2015, the variety of tough sleepers within the metropolis doubled. In his marketing campaign for the London mayoral election, Mayor Sadiq Khan acknowledged this worrying development, stating: “Homelessness is turning into an more and more seen scar on London’s streets.”
Who’s Hussain serves about 100 scorching meals each weekend, however the volunteers emphasise the venture is about far more than meals. In search of to fight the loneliness and neglect that comes with homelessness, handing out meals presents a gateway to dialog and a chance to construct significant relationships. Aiming to supply long run options, they run further actions together with CV workshops to assist visitors achieve employment. Their pop-up barbershop in October was a specific spotlight, offering the easy treatment of a contemporary haircut to depart visitors feeling assured and empowered.
Devoted to breaking down the obstacles between the visitors and the volunteers, in 2015, the workforce took their dedication to a different stage — they determined to spend three days sleeping tough.
“We thought, ‘We have to take a step additional. We have to really feel what it’s prefer to be homeless,’” mentioned Shah.
The choice to spend 72 hours on the road was additionally straight impressed by the legacy of Hussain.
“Fourteen hundred years in the past, Hussain had 72 followers that stood by with him to comply with his ideas, his ethical of giving again to the neighborhood, combating injustice,” Shah mentioned. “We wish to be remembered as a kind of followers. So to honour these 72 followers, we did 72 hours homeless.”
International Citizen meets the workforce leaders. L-R: Zeenat, Yosola, Zoe, Shah, MJ, Muhammad
25-year-old Zeenat, who runs the meals desk, defined the challenges of tough sleeping as a girl.
“As you may anticipate, sanitation was a giant problem … utilizing the lavatory. You couldn’t simply go once you wanted to go,” she mentioned. “At one level we needed to sneak right into a restaurant.”
Regardless of spending a couple of nights on the road, she admits their privilege was nonetheless seen.
“Sure, we had been sleeping tough however did we actually look homeless? For people who find themselves genuinely homeless, they do have a sure look, they do get a sure stage of judgement. In the event that they had been to stroll into a giant chain restaurant to make use of the lavatory, would they get stopped?”
The extent of the function reversal shocked the volunteers.
“We met a person referred to as Dave* whereas we had been doing the problem,” mentioned Shah. “He was on the road. We had been in a queue for meals. This gentleman approached us and mentioned ‘You’re the Hussain boys proper? You’re those who feed us meals?”
“He mentioned, ‘You’re in my territory now, I’m going to take care of you.’”
Dave helped them navigate life on the streets, taking them to totally different meals drives for every meal to ensure they had been fed, and defending them from the dangers of tough sleeping.
“He taken care of us. One of many lovely tales was, he went again of the queue in order that we acquired fed first,” mentioned Shah.
On the meals drive in January, Dave was charmingly blunt concerning the volunteers’ naivety.
“None of them had a clue. I needed to educate them,” he mentioned. “They helped me, so I assumed, now I’ve acquired to assist them.”
A former soldier who served in Iraq throughout the Gulf Conflict and Eire throughout The Troubles, Dave had been homeless since 2012. He usually visits the meals drive, and believes passionately within the work they’re doing.
“It’s not about faith, it’s about serving to individuals,” he mentioned.
“We have now to understand what we now have,” says 6-year-old Mariam when requested why she enjoys volunteering along with her household.
Dave’s story is an instance that the cycle of homelessness may be damaged. He is had some excellent news currently. Now in everlasting lodging, he’s presently finishing a plumbing and gasoline course — with a job lined up on the finish.
“Who’s Hussain is doing an awesome job,” he added. “On behalf of the homeless inhabitants, thanks.”
*Dave most well-liked to not be photographed to guard his privateness.
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