By Tirion Davies
Homelessness in Cardiff is at its worst in decades. It’s not hard to walk Queen Street and see the true extent of the problem. According to the Office of National Statistics, at least 11 homeless people died in Wales in 2017 and between 2013 and 2017, Cardiff and Wrexham had the highest rates of deaths amongst homeless people at 1.7 per 100,000 population. With the growing number of tents appearing on Cardiff streets, and more and more people living in poverty finding themselves homeless, when it comes to offering support, every little helps.
Included in those attempting to make a difference for those living in poverty, are the leaders and volunteers of The Bare Necessities project. The Bare Necessities programme, formed by former Cardiff University student Lucy Wilkinson, was created as a way of tackling some of the issues people from lower income backgrounds and homeless people might face. The student-led project aims to empower communities and provide basic amenities to be clean and comfortable.
As a way of supporting people living in poverty, The Bare Necessities exists as a project to provide daily essentials to those who wouldn’t otherwise have access to them.
Daily essentials including shampoo, toothbrushes and toothpaste, sanitary towels, deodorant and men’s grooming products to name but a few are always needed by the project.
The Bare Necessities often work with other projects to tackle homelessness, including Cardiff Purple Bus project. Volunteers from The Bare Necessities work with Salvation Army’s bus project to stop at various points across Cardiff to feed those in need and provide them with warm clothes and other necessities.
The Bare Necessities project also sorts donations to create their ‘Bare Necessities paper gift bag’, including a tampon and pad, face cream, nail polish and lipstick to distribute as part of the Purple Bus Project. The Salvation Army has noted that beauty products can help to enrich the lives of men and women living in poverty; The Bare Necessities understands this and thus aims to empower people through these donated products.
Lucy Wilkinson is always in contact with Jo Jones and Sali Hughes, who run the national Beauty Banks an incredible way of offering beauty products to those living in poverty.
In addition to this, The Bare Necessities receive a huge volume of donations from Escentual, an international luxury beauty brand based in Splott, in collaboration with their campaign “Give and Make up”.
On Mother’s Day, Bare Necessities even organised a soap making class where funds were donated to buying more products. Helping women in poverty feel beautiful is one of just many of the successes The Bare Necessities can boast.
During the Homeless World Cup in the summer, actor Michael Sheen was an avid supporter of the event. The event helped to raise awareness for the hundreds living in poverty in Cardiff, and gained support from thousands of Cardiff residents. Lucy and her team, with the support of celebrities like Michael Sheen, managed to donate over 300 goodie bags full of just some of the many donations supplied over the year to those who played in the Homeless World Cup.
The Bare Necessities also works in collaboration with The Charity Women’s Aid, an organisation who work with survivors and women in poverty to rebuild their lives with survivors’ workshops and therapy sessions. Bare Necessities volunteers aided in applying the finishing touches on the Charity Women’s Aid’s Cardiff building earlier this year.
Women living in poverty often struggle to find support, but with projects like The Bare Necessities aiding the work of places like Charity Women’s Aid, it can make a massive difference in someone’s life.
In addition to this, the project has been a part of the Student Sleepout events the past few years here at Cardiff University, as a way of raising awareness around the real struggles people living in poverty have to face every day. Students take to the streets for a night or two to experience homelessness, sleeping in tents or in sleeping bags on the streets of Cardiff as a way of raising awareness surrounding the crisis found in Wales in regard to homelessness.
During last year’s Purple Bus project, many Cardiff University volunteers from The Bare Necessities, who aided in the dispatch of the packs of food and necessities, noted the shock from those who received the packs.
Although there is a hot food and drink van which often helps the homeless (located behind Debenhams, close to Minsky’s bar), the Purple Bus project is a massive aid to those living in poverty. Many living on the streets are often turned away from shelters due to lack of accommodation.
Additionally, these shelters can often be breeding grounds for drugs, with many deciding not to seek shelter as a way of combating their own substance abuse. Projects like The Bare Necessities and the Purple Bus project are brilliant because they offer amenities to homeless people who’ve found going to a shelter would be too unsafe for them.
The women who received the packs through the Purple Bus project were grateful for sanitary products, as these are items people often forget to donate (food and clothing are the items most often donated).
Donations like clean, dry clothing are items appreciated most by those living on the streets, as one of the hardest things is to keep clothing dry, especially as the temperature drops and it becomes harder to stay warm.
Those who aided in the project last year, also included Christmas cards and a present of chocolates or warm socks, with one man mentioning it would likely be the only Christmas gift he’d receive.
Jessica Gulliver, one of the volunteers at the project last year, said ‘I think they were more surprised that people were actually taking time out of their day to not only give them things but to talk to them, and it was bizarre that a few of them were saying how we were such good people for doing it when I’d like to think that most other people would do the same, or at least treat them like people and talk to them’.
Many of the volunteers noted that those they gave packs to were shocked they were receiving a choice when it came to clothing and food. They hardly get any choice, for those living in poverty, receiving anything is a welcome gift; choice is an added bonus.
Clothing donations in particular are helpful, as clothing is something easy to donate (we all have clothes we don’t want anymore) but it’s hard for those living in poverty to afford clothes for themselves.
Sometimes it’s easy to take basic amenities for granted, but to those living in lower income backgrounds and on the streets, soap and a jumper with one or two holes is a luxury hard to come by. Any kind of donation which could be offered up helps those who need it most.
The Bare Necessities team plan to organise another Christmas drive for this year, with the success of last year’s efforts, and the support the team has garnered through social media only an added encouragement. Bare Necessities understands the importance of these Christmas drives to those who are struggling throughout the year.
Lucy Wilkinson created an organisation and project which has undeniably helped hundreds of people in Cardiff who are living in poverty.
Bare Necessities and projects by Cardiff University volunteering schemes are brilliant and are important in our community in helping those who have no means of accessing basic amenities. It’s important we support them.
With help always needed sorting donations and distributing packs of goodies, the team always welcome a helping hand if you’re looking for a way of getting involved!
To learn more about Bare Necessities, search: https://www.cardiffstudents.com/jobs-skills/volunteering/project/cardiffbeautybanks/
If you’re interested in meeting the team in a fun, festive way, the Christmas Meet & Mingle will take place on December 1 on the second floor of Cardiff Student’s Union. With a £4 ticket, you can join the Winter Adventure treasure hunt and cosy up with a cup of mulled wine.