Bristol Homeless ‘legend’ Jeff is homed by runaway online fundraiser

Bristol Homeless ‘legend’ Jeff  is homed by runaway online fundraiser

A GoFundMe campaign has raised £8,937 to buy a van for local character Jeff who has been selling the Big Issue for over 15 years in central Bristol.

In one month the online fundraising campaign has more than tripled the original target, meaning that on going maintenance costs will be covered as well. The contributions ranging from £5 to £150, the community has come together to look after a man who, though homeless, is relentless in cheering everyone he meets.

 

Today, 3 days ahead of schedule, the campaign shared that they have completed purchasing the vehicle and Jeff has moved in.  Jody who drove it up from Exeter dropped the price for them and Deasy describes it as perfect, ‘it has solar panels, wooden bunks, a sink and small kitchen area, USB charging ports, two batteries and even a television. It is a home.’

Jeff is well known in Bristol for his joyful manner and eternal positivity. The fund raiser was started by Deasy Bamford who works from Hamilton House and made friends with the friendly Big Issue seller who often works from the steps of that establishment.

‘We want to thank Jeff’

‘Like so many people in Bristol, we want to thank Jeff for all the love and kindness he radiates and for brightening our day.  He claims no benefits at all and survives on what he makes from selling The Big Issue.   We asked him how we could give back to him or support him,’ said Bamford about why she started the fund.

‘I was cycling home one night when I saw someone bedding down outside Mickleburgh Music shop,’ said Deasy, ‘ I had just bought myself a nice new warm hat and really felt for this stranger so stopped my bike and went back to speak to them. It turns out that it was Jeff! I realised that I have known him for years but had never thought about where he slept.’ She then went on the Hamilton House message boards and found Valerie who had been thinking about how to help him. They decided if they were going to help they would have to do it right then before they lost momentum.

Deasy made the page and donated a £10 and went on holiday to Gambia whilst Valerie maintained the page and when she got back they had over £5000 donated.  The online funding projects that Deasy has been part of before have been a real struggle but she says this was so easy because people love Jeff.

‘I love you all, love Jeff’

The campaign shared this statement from Jeff, ‘Thank you all for supporting me, I love you all’. Tears were shed by the organisers and Jeff as they read through the messages of support and care on the site.  He is described as ‘thankful and a little overwhelmed’ by Deasy.

There has been concern about Jeff’s health recently, local resident Susannah Cole saying, ‘I recently spent time with him as he was in a bad way, no shoes as his only shoes got wet, and he seemed thinner – his teeth are poorly and I think giving pain so he is not eating. Tried to persuade him to go to the dentist – one for homeless folk round the corner from the big issue. When I asked him who was looking after him, the way he makes us all feel good, a big tear rolled down.’ Making this development a timely one.

It has been suggested that Jeff sleeps rough because he seeks to avoid the chaos of drugs and alcohol in hostels.

‘even when the landmark that encouraged it disappears’

‘Yay Jeff! So happy for you, and so proud to be part of such a great community. Just goes to show the resilience of true community in Bristol even when the landmark that encouraged it disappears!’ shared Daisy, one of the contributors. This good news comes in less than a month after Coexist, the organising group of Hamilton House, were evicted.  Making this community success story bittersweet. The organisers of the fund are themselves in peril of loosing their community work space.

Fond memories of Jeff

‘Of the over 500 people who donated nearly all know Jeff personally, he has touched so many people,’ said Deasy. Jess Smith, a local nurse, tells us about a time when Jeff touched her life.

Concerning new way to treat homelessness

Jeremy Snyder, an associate professor at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, who has studied the effects of crowdfunding on medical patients and others in need told the Guardian,  ‘I think in a one-off way, crowdfunding is a powerful way to help someone, but if this is the new way to address homelessness, it’s very concerning.’

Homelessness is at a historic high in Bristol and had been rising fast. Figures from Homeless Link, a national homelessness charity, show that people without housing has risen 128% in the last 3 years. Local Councillor Paul Smith, Cabinet Lead on housing, said, ‘We are doing everything we can to help the housing crisis in Bristol, but we know it is not enough.’

‘It’s been a pleasure’

‘It has been a pleasure to be part of this,’ said Deasy, ‘to show Jeff how much the community loves him. He is like a beacon. People might be having a hard day and they see how joyful Jeff despite his circumstances and he makes them happier. Hopefully this will give him a chance to feel secure and have an opportunity to rest in a safe space. I have lived on the road and know you need very little to feel properly at home.’

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.