Joni’s Army feeds Romford homeless

PUBLISHED: 17:30 16 February 2017

Rita O' Leary and Jenny Russell on the streets of Romford helping to feed the homless. Pictured with homeless woman Carley Stubbins

Rita O' Leary and Jenny Russell on the streets of Romford helping to feed the homless. Pictured with homeless woman Carley Stubbins


A woman who promised a dying girl she would carry out kind deeds, is ensuring she keeps to her word by delivering food to homeless people.

Rita O’Leary, 48, of Penrith Road, Harold Hill, a member of the Joni’s Army charity, delivers food and toiletries to homeless people living in Romford and central London.

And she plans to hold a boot sale at 2pm on Sunday at the Harold Hill Community Centre, Gooshays Drive, Harold Hill, to raise cash to buy more items needed.

“Some of them are kids,” she said.

“Some of them are older. It is terrible. If I can give them a blanket, jumper or food, it will make a difference.”

Rita was compelled to action after reading about Joni-Mai Stevens, of Swanbourne Drive, Hornchurch, who at the age of five was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma – a rare bone cancer.

“I read her story on the internet a few years ago,” continued Rita.

“I met her parents and grandparents and felt moved to get involved. I fell in love with the kid.

“I had grandchildren the same age. She melted me.”

After treatment Joni-Mai was given the all-clear when she was six, but developed another tumour while on holiday in New York in 2014.

She died in September 2015 and a charity was founded in her name.

“We promised her we would do kind things,” added Rita.

Enroute to central London to feed the homeless, Rita noticed that there were many in Romford and she decided to take action.

“They are in South Street, under the subway, everywhere,” she continued.

“On Saturday, we were going to London but there were so many in Romford we didn’t make it to London.

“I take my two trollies and pump flask filled with soup, sausage sandwiches, toiletries, blankets, jumpers, anything we can think of.

“I feel so sad. I can’t help stressing about them. I hope to raise a few hundred pounds to help keep me going to supply them with food.

“It’s so important to help because they haven’t got anyone. They’re hungry and cold.”

To get involved call Rita on 07988 691207.

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