At a time when homelessness is on the rise, Mansukh and his diligent team of community guardians bring their much needed, committed ethos to the cause. According to the grass-roots research association.
The Connection 'rough sleeping in England almost tripled in recent years – where 27 people are sleeping rough in 2017 for every 10 who were doing so in 2010.’ Mansukh is a Trustee of Shree Jalaram Mandir (Temple) in Greenford and manages the Jalaram Homeless Sewa Team: a force of volunteers, largely hailing from Shree Jalaram Mandir & Community Centre, following a definitive spiritual calling. Unfettered by the distraction of long-term clinical targets, they are compelled by pure concern. “Our ethos is simply to feed those who are in need,” Mansukh stated. “We don’t have a stipulated business plan, but rather provide for those who are socially vulnerable around us as we immediately see them.”
Formerly an IT consultant, Mansukh told us that the team uses tech to facilitate their charitable endeavour as opposed to primarily driving it: “apps certainly help with organisation and information on stock, but we are primarily a face-to-face organisation.” Currently travelling to central London three times a week, the Jalaram volunteers supply the homeless there with basic amenities, distributing in the specially chosen locations of The Strand, High Holborn and Temple underground station. The former is close to the famous St Martin-in-the-field- Anglican Church in Trafalgar Square, which offers the homeless a large sleeping shelter by night. In a co-ordinated effort, the Jalaram team serve food to those same rough sleepers on week days so they can fill their stomachs as well as getting a deserved night’s sleep. “Many homeless people sleep under the Embankment bridges near the Strand too,” Mansukh added, “so we’re providing for the needy as completely as possible.”
Similarly, the Jalaram team prioritise serving the homeless in Holborn, among other charitable enterprises who distribute in that area, as one of the wealthiest spots in London where the poverty gap is particularly stark. In terms of the finer practical details, Mansukh and his fellow volunteers additionally offer free “bedding, such as sleeping bags and duvets, and toiletries” as well as a variety of “hot and cold food & drinks.” Indeed, what makes the Jalaram team so special is their incredible sensitivity to the nuances. Their help is tailored for the contrasting seasons too. In winter, warmer clothes are sourced, including socks, scarves and woolly hats while the summer means the team will stock up on fresh and revitalising fruit such as chopped pineapples, melons, and tropical mangoes and papayas.
Working this way seems to come to the force organically by virtue of the fact that it is based on love. “Actually, I encourage volunteers to bring their children along, and openly welcome young people onto the team,” Mansukh emphasised. “This opens up the youngsters’ eyes to another world, only growing compassion in the future. One of my loveliest memories has been when two children from our community donated their chocolate bars to the homeless, and promptly came back, wanting more food to give away! Many volunteers start out feeling that they will ‘just give it a go’, but then find that they can’t wait to return. We have quite a few young people helping out at our main location in Charing Cross.” Giving then need not be a chore: as Mansukh demonstrates, it’s more an untapped resource lying quietly within us: “I prefer to call my work a service to humanity.”
So, being personally invested, the Jalaram Homeless Sewa team ultimately provides a valuable emotional home. Mansukh elaborated on the benefit of “giving a listening ear and understanding,” in lieu of giving money, which could be misused. “If you are in one of our queues, we won’t ask questions because we know we are there to help. Empathy is integral to the service. A lot of homelessness is, unsurprisingly, connected to mental health.” The adverse living condition both arises from and is caused by the latter phenomenon. In fact, The Homeless Link reported that ‘the most common reason for homelessness is due to relationship breakdown,’ while the Huffington Post stated that ‘one in five homeless people suffers from untreated severe mental illness.’
“You must be willing to talk to people, learning about them and their baggage,” Mansukh continued. “Over time, I have identified four types of homeless people: those who prefer to sleep on the street because they don’t want to stay in shelter homes, which they feel restrict them – these people have friends who they move around with; there are those who are in temporary homelessness, passing through because they might have just lost their job in addition to other possible reasons – these people just want a bit of free food; those people who live in shelter homes, who do have live-in kitchen and need food to cook; and finally those people who have a job, but live below the poverty line and need to save money to a shockingly crippling degree - we treat them all the same with dignity and empathy".
Significantly, Mansukh and his team also address the wider issue of food waste by liaising efficiently with large food organisation such as Tesco and FareShare, food banks and The Felix Project. Unwanted produce from supermarkets then still contribute to vital community well being, effectively tackling social tragedy. “We collect and package the food from these big places, in particular, to distribute to the homeless. Of course, we welcome donations from individuals too. I have to say that the shops have been great in collaborating with us. If there is any issue, it’s a stagnation of volunteers to do the grittier tasks – such as the heavy-duty carrying and collecting. I actually have three large fridges in my garage myself to store donations: we do deal with essential greens, and dairy. We could always do with more help!”
Mansukh has recently been nominated locally by his team for Harrow's Heroes award, a platform which celebrate everyday acts of kindness. The group have also enjoyed a visit from the CEO of Tesco himself, Dave Lewis, for all their incredible work. Lewis picked the Jalaram team as one of three out of 2,000 charities who were doing outstanding work. “It was really an honour,” Mansukh beamed. To date, the tireless trustee has also successfully established a team in Leicester, in conjunction with his sister who wanted to follow in his sincere footsteps, “engaging between 80-90 volunteers in the major city.” Thus, finally, the momentum of Mansukh’s charity says as much about a modern zeitgeist of resistance as it does the issue of helping the homeless in 2019. At an increasingly interpersonal time, the traditional saying of the great role model, Gandhi, becomes aptly modified. More precisely than being ‘the change you wish to see in the world,’ one must, actualise, being dynamically active. As the soulful Jalaram Homeless Sewa mission shows, we must be as deeply involved as we are fretful if we want to see a large-scale shift towards the betterment of humanity. This requires a deep, emotive drive.
Tell us more about your food donations.
Helping the homeless and the needy is an extension of the work we do at the Mandir. We give to old people’s homes, orphanages, community centres, churches and other charities as well as the homeless centres. Working with the Mayor of London & QPR football club, we also provide lunches for the disadvantaged school children during school holidays.
Where do you think you inherited such a strong social conscience?
My faith: Virpur is the village of a Saint Jalaram in India. There they actually feed over 150,000 people every day. We practice this in our Mandir, based in Greenford. At lunch times, we feed anyone of any faith who comes in. It’s a natural duty.
I also grew up with very generous, spiritual parents who would feed anyone who came into the house.
Are there any further highlights of Jalaram Homeless Sewa Team?
On our anniversary, we hired an ice cream van and distributed 400 ice-creams, complete with chocolate flakes, to the homeless. It was so successful; we were sponsored in doing this for a second year!
If you’d like to contribute to this incredible, worthwhile cause, please email Mansukh on [email protected] or
GoFundMe link: https://www.gofundme.com/u3t5y-a-cause-i-care-about-needs-help