A big-hearted truck driver and his small band of helpers have been boosted in their efforts to provide a lifeline for homeless and vulnerable people in Wrexham.
Every Wednesday night the group established by Matt Pyne distribute around 30 free meals from the town centre base of the social enterprise, Yellow and Blue (YAB), in Henblas Street.
Matt, from Flint, thanked the “good Samaritans” from Wrexham based Hadlow Edwards Wealth Management Ltd who have chipped in with a donation of around £1,000.
The money has been used to buy essential items including cold weather sleeping bags, roll mats, underwear, toiletries and simple mobile phones with sim cards.
The items were packed into rucksacks and distributed to desperate community members living on the poverty line or sleeping on the streets.
Hadlow Edwards staff member Fiona Clarke explained that before buying the items to donate they asked Matt what the most needed provisions were.
She said: “Visiting the centre just makes me realise how deeply appreciated our donations are and what a positive difference they have made.
“We gifted the items during winter but it’s important to remember that people still need toiletries, clothing and shelter whatever the time of year. So hopefully we will be able to organise another donation in the summer.”
Matt set up the weekly drop-in centre several years ago after encountering so many homeless people through his then work delivering and removing skips.
He said: “Sometimes I would come across people living on the streets, leaning against the skips I’d gone to pick up trying to stay sheltered and keep warm. I’d always chat with them, but I knew in my heart that it wasn’t enough. Just being friendly only goes so far, I wanted to do more, so I posted a shout-out on Facebook for ideas and donations to help the homeless community.”
Soon Matt was inundated with so much support that he was able to go out on the streets in his spare time distributing essential items and food for the homeless in Wrexham, Deeside and Chester.
The project has since expanded to the extent that he and the dedicated volunteer team, including his partner Sian Bradley, now have a permanent weekly venue, operating out of the Yellow and Blue Community Hub.
They have arranged with local restaurants to donate hot meals, and they accept donations of warm, good condition clothes, shoes and essentials to hand-out to the vulnerable without question.
Among those who have received vital help from the centre is Derek John Humphreys who said he was distraught when his mother Peggy died a few weeks ago following a long illness.
Derek said: “I knew the funeral was coming up but I had only the clothes I stood up in, nothing decent to go in. I felt heartbroken that I was struggling to look good for mum.
“But Matt and the team did me proud. They asked me what was wrong and I told them. Before I knew it they had kitted me out with a terrific dark suit to wear. Such a simple thing but it made a huge difference to me in a time of grief. I was able to do mum proud and these people helped me do that. I’ll always be grateful. They are heroes in my eyes.”
Derek regularly attends the Wednesday night drop-in sessions and appreciates the warm meals and non-judgmental socialising it offers.
Matt and his team consistently aim to create ways of making long-term connections with the homeless by offering confidential advice, and services such as free hair-cutting sessions, and beauticians’ treatments.
Rough sleeper Steve Edwards agreed that Matt and all the centre volunteers were the homeless community’s ‘guardian angels’.
He said: “They never judge, they treat us like equals, always look us in the eye and make time to talk. What they offer here is a lifeline for me without a shadow of a doubt. Just knowing they are here helps get me through.
“The food they provide is top nosh, warm, and tasty too. And when they handed out the rucksacks packed with gifts, well that was unbelievable, a survival kit in every sense. They all deserve an award for what they do.”
According to Matt, the donation from Hadlow Edwards and similar gifts from other groups and individuals were vital to the drop-in centre operations.
He said: “The sleeping bags were top quality winter standard, the phones enable the vulnerable to keep in touch and feel more a part of the community and toiletries make so much difference to a person’s self-esteem, it is hard to describe how such simple donations like deodorants and soap sets can impact on people’s lives.
“We take so many things for granted in society these days that is difficult to imagine how people survive with so little.
“It is easy when you’re in the privileged position of having your own home and a comfortable life, not to really notice those less fortunate, but I’ve done this now for so long that I know how people can slip into homelessness and poverty often through just a small change in their lives, an unforeseen event.
Whether it be a health issue, family break-up, a job loss, a couple of bad decisions, anyone can end up homeless and become stuck in what seems like a never ending downward spiral.
“What we aim to do is give them a lift up again, offer a pathway out of the void.”
Matt thanked the YAB community hub leaders Pete Humphreys and his partner Beth Klingenberg, for offering the time and space in the hub to run the drop-in venue.
He said: “We have been in a couple of locations before where we faced some logistical problems but this has been the perfect place for us, so central and within easy reach.”