Cranham charity that helps the homeless by handing out ex-army sleeping bags as a ‘lifeline’
PUBLISHED: 07:00 26 March 2018 | UPDATED: 12:38 26 March 2018
A Christian charity from Cranham has handed out nearly 500 sleeping bags to rough sleepers in the last year, and thousands to those on the streets since it began eight years ago.
Above us Only Sky? started in October 2010, when Cranham resident Steve Fletcher felt helpless after seeing a man sleeping in his car by the side of the road.
Steve then went and bought the man a sleeping bag, and as a member of St Luke’s church in Cranham he went into the church the next week and asked members if they would support his idea to hand out sleeping bags to those in need.
His idea was then given the go-ahead and now the group of volunteers have helped thousands of homeless people stay that little bit warmer on the streets.
The name partly comes from the lyrics from John Lennon’s famous song ‘Imagine’ but also from the fact that when you are sleeping on the streets, literally above you is only sky.
The charity buys second hand army and military standard sleeping bags and waterproof sleeping bag covers (a bivvy) and hands them out to people living on the street.
Ken Perkins, 60, from Cranham has been part of the charity since the beginning and said that these sleeping bags can offer somebody on the street a real lifeline.
He said: “It is crucial that the sleeping bags are waterproof because it means that they can last in any weather. They cost around £30 each and are a lifesaver.”
Ken has been a member of the church since 2007 and funnily enough wasn’t meant to be in the room when Steve spoke to others about his idea, but as soon as he heard what he had to say he knew he wanted to get involved.
When it first launched in 2010, Ken said he remembers how cold it was in the area, he said there was lots of snow, record low temperatures and that it was the UK’s coldest December since Met Office records began.
He said that he felt like the charity helped to save a lot of lives that winter - and since then, that number has grown and grown.
Ken is one of around 20 volunteers who take part in everything from wrapping and packing the sleeping bags to sewing labels and knitting hats and gloves.
The group also work with other charities including the Salvation Army and homeless shelter Hope 4 Havering.
The Christmas and winter period is the charitys busiest time, and volunteers then take to the streets and find people sleeping rough and offer them a sleeping bag and a prayer.
With every sleeping bag comes a Gospel - a copy of the first four books of the New Testament in the Bible - and the volunteers also say a prayer for that individual.
The Cranham based charity has also provided sleeping bags for those taking part in the sponsored sleep out, which is a yearly event where members of the public - including the Mayor of Havering for the last few years - sleep rough to raise awareness of homelessness.
The charity mission statement is to “aim to build loving relationships with the homeless and helpless, to meet not just their physical but also their spiritual needs, to show them God’s love and to treat them with respect and dignity.”
It says that this means talking to them, listening to them, comforting them, praying with them and providing for them in a variety of ways.
Ken said: “We’ve supported thousands of people in the years that we’ve been going and it’s brilliant.
“I think we genuinely offer those on the streets a lifeline, we do what we can to help them, we’ve seen some fantastic success stories, and it is just nice to be able to help out.”
To donate to the charity visit www.aboveusonlysky.org.uk
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