Handbags project will help homeless women

Joanna Hall is a new co-ordinator for a charity scheme called Helping Handbags. Picture: Ian Burt

Joanna Hall is a new co-ordinator for a charity scheme called Helping Handbags. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

A new worldwide initiative, aimed at donating health and hygiene products to homeless women, has been launched in Norfolk and is already gathering widespread support.

Joanna Hall is a new co-ordinator for a charity scheme called Helping Handbags. Picture: Ian Burt

Joanna Hall is a new co-ordinator for a charity scheme called Helping Handbags. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

Helping Handbags asks people to fish out old unwanted handbags and fill them with toiletries, hygiene products, warm hats and gloves, and snacks which can be passed on to homeless women in their area.

Joanna Hall, a senior land charges officer for Capita at Breckland Council, has volunteered to be a co-ordinator of the county's first project in Dereham and has been liaising with local businesses to agree to be donation stations.

She has the library and the leisure centre on board in Dereham and the Health & Beauty Spot in Fakenham where her daughter works.

Mrs Hall, who lives in Dereham, said it was a cause that really resonated with her.

Helping Handbags logo

Helping Handbags logo - Credit: supplied

'When I heard about it it just struck a chord as a woman,' she said.

'I just thought it was a fantastic idea. We all have old handbags in our cupboards so it is putting them to good use. The toiletries themselves are not too expensive but it can give homeless women some of their dignity back. It must be so difficult for women on the streets or anyone who may have been displaced suddenly and ended up with nothing but the clothes on their backs.'

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The project was started in the UK by Brenda Dempsey, now a successful entrepreneur but who had been homeless herself in the past.

She said women up and down the country were coming forward to volunteer to help.

'What really caught the imagination of this project is that it deals specifically with issues of the menstrual cycle,' she said. 'This is something that is forgotten about. We are busy donating clothes, sleeping bags and food that we can over look the natural needs of sanitisation for homeless women.'

Mrs Hall aims to visit the donation stations once a week to pick up donated handbags and will pass them on to homeless charities or hostels by December 19.

'It is very much in its infancy but it is really catching on around the country,' she said.

'I have already had several bags donated and I would now like charities to get in touch who may be able to distribute them. I may even walk the streets of Norfolk myself to hand them out or go to soup kitchens.'

Mrs Hall has said she can collect handbags in the local area by prior arrangement and is looking for more volunteers to help collecting or businesses that can offer to be donation stations.

She has created a Facebook page - Helping Handbags Dereham Norfolk - and is keen to hear from anyone who can help.

* Are you supporting a good cause? Email kathryn.cross@archant.co.uk.