City businesses, members of the public and volunteers all work together every week to help look after the homeless in Chichester.
Charity, The Four Streets Project was started in January 2017 by Donna Ockenden, her daughter Phoebe and sister, Caiti after they would take extra food from their family meal on plates and share it.
At only 18, Donna had found herself homeless and with full responsibility for her four siblings aged four to 16 in Bristol in 1985.
The successful businesswoman was given a civic award by the council in February for her tireless work which also includes the Community Coat Rack, run during the winter to give free coats to those in need.
Her daughter, Phoebe received the Young Citizen’s Award at the Chichester City Council Awards for her work with homeless people in March last year.
The support Donna and her charity have received from across the city has helped the Four Streets Project to grow.
She said: “The Four Streets Project has provided compassionate nightly support to the hungry and homeless on the streets of Chichester since 2016.
“Our volunteers come from all walks of life and they volunteer because they care about the plight of the people we meet. Our approach is to be consistent- we never miss a night – providing a seven nights a week / 365 day a year service. The homeless and hungry know they can absolutely rely on us.
“All volunteers working with Four Streets believe that no one in Chichester should be hungry and thirsty and that first and foremost we must meet that need. We encounter hungry and thirsty people on the ‘Four Streets’ of Chichester seven nights a week.”
Dawn and Rob who own Fenwick’s Cafe in Priory Park donate water to the charity, while Purchases Restaurant in North Street make fresh, homemade soup and Adam Papadamou, owner of fish and chip shop LA Fish in The Hornet donate hot food to the charity too.
Dawn said: “We decided to help the project as it benefits local homeless people, throughout our business we pride ourselves on using local companies to supply our fresh produce, i think this goes hand in hand. I think all charity should start at home.”
Adam added: “I’ve been helping the homeless for the past 38 years with great pleasure. Its how I have been raised, to help anyone I can and give back where I can.
“The greatest feeling for me is when I see people come back into the shop and they have turned their life around, at that moment in time, that’s the moment that counts and that’s why I keep helping when and where I can.”
Donna continues: “In addition to providing food and water we believe in helping the homeless to maintain their dignity wherever possible. We ensure that everyone has access to basic supplies – toothbrushes, wipes, deodorant etc and provide basic supplies such as new socks and new underwear on a regular basis.”
The staff at Q Hair and Beauty in Chichester have been rallying round to help the homeless by buying essential toiletries for them.
They dipped into their own pockets to buy items such as shower gel, makeup wipes, mini makeup/essentials bags, toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo and dry shampoo.
“Our staff are naturally caring people and I’m very proud that they are being so generous,” said Dawn Lawrence Grant, managing director of the multi-award-winning salon on North Street.
“We often pass homeless people in Chichester on our way to and from work and it’s great that our team feel they want to help in some way by supporting the Four Streets project which does invaluable work.”
Daryll Mendoza has his own electrical company, Express Electrical Services Ltd based in Chichester but gives up his spare time, along with his son, to help the charity including delivering food on a Saturday night.
Donna said: “We could not do what we do without the fantastic support of our nightly volunteers, the kind members of the public who regularly donate to us and the local businesses who support us.
“Many of them are mentioned in this article and as the Founder and Chair of the Four Streets Project I would like to extend my huge thanks to everyone!
“We simply couldn’t provide the care we do to the hungry, thirsty and homeless people we meet every night without the support you give Four Streets.”
Mayor of the city, Cllr Richard Plowman said: “The Chichester community is great. When a call for help comes out from a charity like the Four Street Project there is no hesitation and local shops have stepped forward immediately so many thanks from all of us.
“Looking after the homeless in Chichester is important, many are there due to unfortunate sets of circumstances not from choice. We have some excellent charities such as Stonepillow, St Pancras Church and City Angels with Four Streets Project who are combining their resources to tackle sadly what is becoming a more frequent sight of rough sleepers in the city
“There are many challenges for Chichester at the moment and we all need to pull together because there is one thing we all have in common we love and care about Chichester.”
If you are interested in volunteering with the Four Streets, email: firstname.lastname@example.org