A campaign to help the homeless in Bradford this winter is gathering momentum with 400 participants already willing to take part.

The national campaign known as The Rucksack Project is being coordinated by Cowling resident Peter Wilkin to help those sleeping on the streets in the city.

The project asks that the public put together what is essentially a survival pack for homeless people to be distributed throughout December.

Working closely with Kristi Harrison, the Leeds event coordinator, writer, poet and 'iphoneographer' Peter has attracted attention via Facebook - and hope the numbers will keep on growing.

Peter explained how and why the campaign appeals to him:

"It was my wife, Ally, who brought the Rucksack Project to my attention. One of her friends had posted the official video on her Facebook timeline and it had moved her to tears. She called me to watch it and we both decided that we should try to coordinate an event somewhere and Bradford seemed to be the nearest place to where we live that would make the event 'work' if that makes sense. As soon as I created the page the interest was immediate and now it looks as though we'll hit 400+ volunteers.

"I used to work with people who had severe and enduring mental health issues that sometimes resulted in a person being made homeless or even choosing 'rough sleeping' as an option. I've seen the misery and the negative impact that homelessness has on a person's mental health and I've also been lucky enough to see the positive effects when a homeless person has been helped to find accommodation and then been supported in his or her new tenancy. So, I guess it didn't take much thought when my wife brought the Rucksack Project to my attention, it was something I immediately wanted to be a part of.

"I guess what appealed to me was an opportunity to make a positive difference to someone's life situation by enabling them to be comfier, warmer and, hopefully, more cheerful, even if it would only be a transient or short-term improvement. I also love the idea of giving something to someone unconditionally, a true 'gift' where there is no expectation of recompense in any way."

The donation of a rucksack containing such bare essentials is something manageable for most of us and that perhaps explains its wide appeal.
Peter agreed: "I think people see the idea of putting a rucksack pack together as both novel and making good sense.

"It gives them a sense of doing something worthwhile and of actually being involved, whereas requests for donations of money don't generate that same interest. They are anonymous and who knows how they are spent? This is a 'hands on' exercise that generates a feel-good factor in those who volunteer. And I think the fact that winter is approaching has also galvanised people into helping - particularly as the snow and freezing weather of last winter is still fairly fresh in people's minds.

"The apparent simplicity of the project appeals too, I think - although it's actually not that easy to find all the articles that are being requested, particularly rucksacks & sleeping bags. But, people are being innovative and have shown a real determination to succeed and certain companies, organisations and business people have been drawn into the project too, purely from an altruistic perspective: they have seen an opportunity to make homeless people's lives just a little more tolerable and that has been enough to trigger a response."

The 'gift' is essentially a survival pack comprising of a rucksack, sleeping bag, flask, fleece, hat, gloves and underwear. People are encouraged to search through their own wardrobes or to use charity shops where possible to put together the package. Extra donations are welcomed and a printout must be included listing the contents.

The rucksacks can then be left at a number of drop-off points from December 4th, before the final distribution in Bradford on December 21st.
Peter has been more than pleasantly surprised by the response:
"We didn't have any goals in mind, but are just amazed and humbled by the huge response we've had."

It is difficult to estimate the number of people who will be sleeping rough this Christmas, so as many donations as possible are welcomed by the campaign.

Peter said: "I've spoken to some of the charity workers who regularly visit the soup kitchens in Bradford and they tell me there is often in excess of one hundred homeless people/rough sleepers there for the evening meal. I'm not sure what the official number is, I guess it would be difficult to carry out such a census but there is clearly a big problem judging by the number attending the soup kitchens."

The main event will take place on December 21st at a place to be decided in Bradford. Here anyone involved in the project will meet to drop off their rucksacks to be distributed by Inn Churches at Captain Street, Bradford and Bradford Day Shelter, Edmund Street.

Peter added, " And hopefully, at least some of us will have time and space to have a coffee together afterwards to celebrate what will be a wonderful achievement."

Volunteers wishing to take part in this project are invited to take their rucksacks from December 4th to:
Silsden: Crystal Space, 12a Aire View, Silsden BD20 0AN, open Thursdays & Fridays from 9.30 am until 4.30pm.
Keighley: The Furniture Project, Springfield Mills, Oakworth Road, Keighley BD21 1SL, open Monday to Friday, 9.00 am until 3.00 pm
Bradford: Railway Road Garage, Railway Road, Idle, Bradford BD10 9RJ, open Monday to Friday, 9.00 am until 5.00 pm

All information including a printable copy of the letter that must be included in the rucksack is available here.