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Foot health professional helps the homeless get back on their feet

PUBLISHED: 11:52 12 March 2018 | UPDATED: 11:52 12 March 2018

Jackie O'Neill treating a client's foot at the Purfleet Trust, in King's Lynn. Picture: Chris Bishop

Jackie O'Neill treating a client's foot at the Purfleet Trust, in King's Lynn. Picture: Chris Bishop

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One woman went from working in a high security prison to helping the homeless get back on their feet.

Jackie O'Neill, with the cheque donated by masonic lodges. Picture: Chris BishopJackie O'Neill, with the cheque donated by masonic lodges. Picture: Chris Bishop

Jackie O’Neill gives up her time to run a makeshift foot clinic for clients of the homeless charity the Purfleet Trust in King’s Lynn.

Ms O’Neill, 56, worked in Whitemoor Prison for 15 years before taking voluntary redundancy and stepping towards a new path in life.

She now works at the Solemates clinic in Wisbech St Mary as a foot health professional, but she wanted to take her new-found skill to do more for the community.

“I was determined to do something to help people,” she said. “If you’re homeless your feet is your only mode of transport usually.

Jackie O'Neill treating a client's foot at the Purfleet Trust, in King's Lynn. Picture: Chris BishopJackie O'Neill treating a client's foot at the Purfleet Trust, in King's Lynn. Picture: Chris Bishop

“I phoned all the homeless charities and found the Purfleet had a drop-in centre, which was ideal.”

Since volunteering at the Purfleet from September, she noticed a lot of their clients were wearing damp socks or no socks at all.

When speaking to the manager there, she realised very few socks are donated to the charity. 
“I know people donate clothes and socks are one thing people don’t think to donate, thinking nobody would want their second hand socks,” said Ms O’Neill.

Without clean, dry socks, Ms O’Neill found this exacerbated foot problems for a lot of the homeless. She has seen people with trench foot, dry, cracked skin, fungal nails and infections.

This prompted her to set up the Sock It To Me campaign, where she collects donations to hand out to clients at the Purfleet.

She has been able to donate hundreds of socks to those in need and is looking to expand the campaign to other homeless charities in the area.

“I have been inundated with socks and overwhelmed by people’s generosity, it is really nice to be able to treat somebody’s feet and then give them a clean pair of socks.

“I am also indebted to Calder Lodge, Meridian Lodge and Ethleredra lodge who have raised over £700 for the cause.”

“I really enjoy it, it is very humbling,” she added.

Ms O’Neill volunteers at the Purfleet Trust, in St Ann’s Fort, once every fortnight on Thursdays.

For more information, visit the Solemates Facebook page www.facebook.com/Yourfeetinsafehands.


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