The start of Linkey by Natasha Langleben
When I co-founded Linkey in December 2017, I didn’t really know what to expect. We’d spent the Xmas period inundated with physical donations from friends and family which had formed our first drop-off – to 3 homeless shelters and a huge number of rough sleepers across London.
However, harnessing the goodwill of friends and family was quite different to creating a brand dependant on the generosity of strangers.
We officially launched the Linkey Shop at the start of February 2018, ready for our #adifferentkindoflove Valentine’s campaign. What followed was far beyond anything the team had expected. National press. 850 valentines packs sold but more than that, the warmth, and outpouring of love in the messages we received. Messages from children giving their first donation, from people donating in memory of loved ones, and mainly from people who were grateful that there was a tangible way to make a small difference.
Prior to this campaign, we did a drop-off at the beginning of February. We met a huge number of people whose faces I can still remember very clearly. One gentleman, sleeping on some steps near the Strand with his partner – who was almost moved to tears when we offered him jackets, jumpers, sleeping bag and thermals. He asked ‘are you sure it’s okay?’. Another gentleman we met at St James’s who had been living on the street for 12 years. He was not only grateful for the rucksack and thermals he received but he seemed quite taken aback that he was receiving brand new products, still in their wrapping.
None of the Linkey team are under any illusions that we are ‘solving homelessness’. We’re aware of the many structural issues that prevent vulnerable people being housed. I’m a social work team manager for a Local Authority leaving care team. Care Leavers are just one of the groups who are disproportionally affected by homelessness. One of the groups who have already experienced so much trauma in their lives.
One thing we do know, however, is that no-one chooses to live on the street if they thought they had somewhere genuinely better to stay. They might choose not to stay in a shelter, because this may not be a ‘good’ option for them – whether they fear their items being stolen, or a culture of drugs and alcohol or they cannot take their dog with them – for whatever reason, they don’t seem to have an alternative option that works for them. It might be that mentally they cannot handle other options that have been provided.
And while that’s the case, Linkey’s aim, in a nutshell – is to link those who care with those who need.
We want to start to build a grassroots movement, a community to do whatever we can to support those who are homeless, in small and tangible ways. Currently this is through donating toiletries, underwear, thermal socks and other essentials to homeless shelters around the country, whilst also providing sleeping bags, rucksacks and thermals to those sleeping on the street. We are also starting to think of other projects over the longer term to provide further links to the homeless population.
In the meantime, if you think you can help – through brand partnerships, nominating homeless shelters in need, or purchasing items. Please do.
Thank you so much for your support during our first few weeks.
Image at top: Linkey co-founders Josh and Tash with Shelter From The Storm co-founder Sheila, and volunteer Chris. One of the many shelters Linkey regularly take essential supplies to.