Leeds Homeless Street Angels' delight at charity status
Two sisters from Leeds who help the homeless are celebrating a huge step forward which will mean they are able to help more of the city's rough sleepers.
Leeds Homeless Street Angels, set up by Becky and Shelley Joyce, has been granted official charity status, two-and-a-half years after it was founded.
Set up after the death of their younger sister Abi, who died aged 39, the street angels deliver 100 hot meals a week to people living on the streets in Leeds and Headingley, as well as blankets, toiletries and other essentials.Getting charity status means more businesses will be able to back them and brings the sisters' vision of a homeless day centre, Abi House, a step closer.
"It's just amazing," said Becky, 45. "It's everything we've worked so hard for.
"We will get so many more donations and be able to support people better than we are at the moment. It's going to take off.
"Abi House started as a dream but it is going to become a reality.
"It's something huge. We were praying we would get it before Christmas as that is when everyone wants to help."
They work with Leeds City Council and Housing Options to re-house people off the streets and are part of the Leeds Homeless Charter to help eradicate homelessness in Leeds.
The process of moving to a not-for-profit group to a charity has taken around one-and-a-half years and comes just weeks after the group's only delivery van was written off.Becky said that even in the past couple of years there had been 'such an increase' in Leeds' homeless population and that Abi House would act as a one-stop shop for rough sleepers.
"Part of the problem is some people have different appointments all over the place - we would have them all in one place.
"It would like a place where they would come to see their family. It will make such a difference."
She envisages a coffee shop, library, therapy rooms and drug services under one roof.
At the moment, everything is done from the Joyce sisters' homes.
There's been more good news for the pair as Leeds-based clothing company Skopes made a large donation to help with food costs.
Shabab Indian have been long-term supporters, supplying free curries every week, and pizza-chain Franco Manca have come on board to donate 20 pizzas a week.