HOMELESSNESS CHARITY Emmaus Gloucestershire, is appealing for donations of filled rucksacks as part Operation Backpack, a campaign to help rough sleepers survive the coldest months of the year.

The Gloucestershire-based charity provides a home and meaningful work to 31 people who have experienced homelessness.

It hopes that schools and youth groups, businesses, families and individuals will get together and donate rucksacks packed with winter essentials such as thermal socks, gloves, hats, scarves, winter sleeping bags and waterproof sleeping mats.

Chief Executive, Joe Feeley: “We are working to end homelessness and enable people to get back on their feet. 

But for those who face nights on the streets this winter, clean, warm clothes are essential for both dignity and survival – we are inviting members of the public to help directly.”

The original idea for a rucksack project was started in 2009 by a man called Mathew White.  

Mathew decided with the last of his Christmas shopping money not to buy any more useless items people didn’t really want and instead bought a rucksack and filled it with items including food, clothes and useful items.  

He gave the pack to a homeless person on the street and said ‘it was the most rewarding Christmas present he had ever given’.

Shirley Billson from Emmaus elaborates: “It’s really simple to take part.  Grab a rucksack and fill it with the items listed on our Facebook event page. 

Our initial target is 150 backpacks and with your help, we can achieve it.” 

Donated backpacks should then be brought to Emmaus shops in Stroud, Nailsworth, Gloucester or Cheltenham.

Former homeless Emmaus companion Mark, described how it felt to be on the receiving end of a backpack: “You go from freezing to feeling ok again. A change of clothes is like changing your soul.”

To find out more about Emmaus Gloucestershire’s Operation Backpack appeal visit their Facebook event page

Those who would prefer to donate money can text PACK17 plus the amount you’d like to donate, for instance: PACK17 £5, to 70070.