ERG/AOP announces ‘FRENDZ’ street men project
‘It’s a small number of people living rough on our streets, but it’s a huge step forward in dignity not only for them but also for us collectively,’ Equality Rights Group (ERG)/Action on Poverty (AOP) Chair Felix Alvarez has announced today in publicising ‘FRENDZ’, a new project ‘whose aim is to cater for a range of different but basic needs of a number of vulnerable sectors in our midst, and which we will make public in due course.
‘The kind assistance the Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, has unflinchingly extended to FRENDZ has been a determinant of our ability to move forward; as has the enthusiastic moral encouragement of His Excellency the Governor, Sir David Steel.
‘We’re opening the project, however, with this particular sector because we’ve been moved by the situation of individuals living on the streets of Gibraltar. And because a little will go a very long way immediately. More often than not, these individuals are technically entitled to nothing, except they are human; and in that we ourselves are entitled to a responsibility. As the outstretched hand on our logo graphically shows, we aim to reach out to them in practical ways both in friendship and without judgement. Their need is only too real. For us in FRENDZ, the only qualifications humanly required are that you’re living rough on the streets and in evident need.
‘We will offer these friends a snack whilst accessing our free services, including a showering and shaving facility, laundering clothes, referral for a haircut/shave or other necessary attention as required. It’s not enough right now, we know; we can’t offer them overnight shelter. But it’s a start; a start to a project that aims to offer others what we would wish offered to us; one to make things better by reaching out beyond ourselves one move at a time, and with the help of people in the community.
‘Let me take this opportunity to honour the many individuals and organisations who, for years, have been providing food and supportive help to those in need in a purely voluntary, unpaid capacity. And they’ve done so without judgement and, oftentimes, silently and selflessly. They represent all that is good and lasting in us, and we thank them. Our new service complements and supports their kind and generous work.
‘Few of us realise how far just a small service can go towards lifting the self-esteem and dignity of individuals who, for a multitude of reasons, life has brought to the situation they find themselves in. Men, in particular, have a very hard time of it. They typically find it more difficult to get the empathy they need. We will not turn women away from our services, but the focus this time is on the men out there, for whom help can too often be very difficult to find.
‘AOP is a sub-project of Equality Rights Group, which means that members of other social action organisations can work together with us against the many faces of poverty to formulate new approaches. Jayne Wink and Darren Olivero of ‘Caring for Gibraltar’ have been pivotal in bringing the focus to working with us to envisage and materialise all the hard work that has gone into this new service. Jayne has taken on the role of Manager of the project, and will be in charge of the day-to-day arrangements on an on-going basis, whilst Darren is an important and integral part of the support team.
‘As Chair of ERG/AOP, I want to sincerely thank the Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, for sympathetically responding to our representations and so kindly providing assistance to FRENDZ; his personal commitment has been heartfelt and special. We’re also indebted to the Governor of Gibraltar, Sir David Steel, for his principled, kind and warm encouragement and support along the way. It goes without saying that the commitment of all my colleagues on ERG/AOP merit my most heartfelt gratitude. And not least, we dedicate this project to our dear and much missed late friend Doug Cumming, whose hope, enthusiasm and encouragement remain with us.
‘We will in due course be giving details of our formal launch and encourage anyone who wishes to lend a hand practically or through financial or other sponsorship for this most noteworthy service, to get in touch with us on 54038314 or write to firstname.lastname@example.org’