The word ‘hero’ was literally created for this man: Verral Paul-Walcott.
We are in awe of this incredible dad-of-two, who has taken the UK’s devastating rise in homelessness into his own hands.
The Londoner has created a street team to help feed hungry people all over the capital, not only delivering them food but also items they need such as socks and trainers.
Speaking exclusively to Uspire about his project, The Homeless Run, Verral revealed how he came up with the idea and why he is determined to continue lifting spirits within the community.
Verral said: “In all my 34 years on earth, 2020 was by far the craziest. Last December, while speaking to a friend, I was reflecting on the year I had.
“I looked back on all the memories and friendships I had made within the C86erz community (a bike ride movement), which made me grateful for what we achieved in a difficult year.
“I decided to message the group and announce I wanted to have one last ride of 2020, but this one would be different, and we would help disadvantaged people.
“So, we created a ride to feed hungry people. I knew the group would respond well because they are all extremely brilliant people individually, and I’m so grateful to be on the team.”
Once Verral and his crew had set a date, within 48 hours they had managed to make 150 backpacks containing sandwiches, crisps, water, sanitiser, biscuits, fruit and breakfast bars.
To top it all off, in that time they raised £1,345 on their JustGiving page.
Then, on the night they took to the streets, Verral and his buddies filled their cargo bikes with the backpacks and searched for vulnerable people; travelling across Tottenham, Wood Green, Camden, South Bank, Enfield, Edmonton and Dalston.
Reflecting on their mission, Verral said he was immensely proud to see everyone rally together, especially as they had not known one another for long.
Verral said: “As we hit the streets, within 45 minutes I realised there was a major problem – food was running out and yet there were countless homeless people in all the boroughs.
“It was heart-breaking. One homeless person stood out to me in particular. I asked him if he would like some gloves, he burst into tears and said, ‘Yes, please.’
“That is not humane, that someone is crying for a need like that. My eyes filled up and I had to quickly compose myself, I called the rest of my team over and told them to look at what I was seeing. We all agreed this mission wasn’t something we could just stop doing.”
Verral continued: “We had fed 150 people across London and Tottenham on December 23 and by Christmas Day I felt sick. I couldn’t take my mind off the faces I saw the night before. The amount of food on my table, not to mention the multitude of presents for my wife and two kids, left me in shock.
“I knew the people on the streets needed us. So, with the first ride a success, we carried on.”
Spurred on to give homeless people a voice, Verral is now also shining a light on the other needs they have yet are currently missing out on – such as public toilet and store closures.
In addition to this, without passers-by on the streets, rough sleepers are not having daily interaction with the people who do help them, such as business people or shoppers.
Verral explained: “On January 4, when the government told the nation we’re going into lockdown again, my mind started having flashbacks to the people on the streets.
“If for example 1,000 people are shopping on a high street and a homeless person is asking for help, he or she might get that help from five or six people. But what happens to them if those 1,000 have been told to stay home in a pandemic, they get no help whatsoever.
“I was shivering, these are people who cry tears of joy when they are handed food.”
Using the powers of social media for good, Verral took to Facebook with his frustrations and began planning more rides to deliver goods to vulnerable people.
Not only did he want to galvanise people in his local area to get involved, but Verral hopes to inspire a movement across the country where people can go and feed their local homeless too.
He concluded: “Homeless people are not only struggling without the generosity of passers-by, but also with the closures of certain shops that they use for non-essential items, such as sleeping bags, tents, socks, or items that are less accessible. It makes me so angry.
“I am so motivated to stand up for them. All the people I have met are amazing, they just need to be cared for and heard. I will carry that load on my back every day along with my team until the government wakes up and looks after the vulnerable.”
We only hope it won’t be too long until they finally wake up!