A ROSS-shire woman waging a "cold war" to help homeless people sleeping rough in sub-zero temperatures has hit her fundraising target after a heart-warming response from like-minded folk who have rallied to her appeal.
Lisa Simpson’s bid to put together practical packs to help rough sleepers battle winter’s icy grip has been boosted by the kindness of strangers and businesses who have chipped in with donations of sleeping pods, clothes and vouchers.
And after the Ross-shire Journal drew attention to her efforts last month, donations have flooded in.
Ms Simpson, who is a property manager at Middleton Ross and Arnott solicitors in Dingwall, decided she had no choice but to take action after speaking to homeless rough sleepers in the Highland capital and finding out about their plight.
This week, she hit a £2000 crowdfunding target to put together up to 20 packs and has been touched by the responses – including that of an anonymous donor who handed in £200 at her place of work.
Ms Simpson told the Journal: "On Saturday I went to Inverness to meet up with one of the homeless who will benefit from one of these ‘cold war’ packages. We ironed out some of the requirements as I wanted to be absolutely 100 per cent certain that I had all that was needed and no stone was left unturned.
"He was very thankful that help was on its way and has volunteered to help with the distribution. It was cold and raining and as we sat talking I realised that when our discussion was over I could go home to a warm house, whereas this man had nowhere, and it reinforced my belief that this was absolutely the right thing to do."
She has taken delivery of 20 tarpaulin sleeping pods from Tom Morrow Tarpaulins and has had goods and gift vouchers from Morrisons, B&M, Poundland, Primark, and Poundworld.
Ross County Football Club has also agreed to allow a bucket collection on February 28 at the home match against Partick Thistle.
Ms Simpson added: "I have been so touched by some recent encounters with homeless people that I feel moved to do something about it. I can barely sleep at night knowing that there are people sleeping on the streets in these consistent sub-zero temperatures.
"I’ve made appeals to several retailers and local businesses and some have come forward and been very generous, but more needs to be done as these people are freezing now! I guess it’s not a popular cause as many of the homeless have mental health and addiction problems, whatever their stories, they are human beings and they deserve our compassion and empathy, many of us could end up in their situation in the blink of an eye. I’m not qualified to help with their issues but I can at least try to help them keep warm and dry, a basic human need."
Her effort was backed by Dingwall-based MSP Kate Forbes, who was moved by her own encounter with a rough sleeper at Dingwall Railway Station, and Ian Blackford MP, who also has a constituency office in the county town.
Mr Blackford said that having people sleeping rough "should shame us all" and that while support is available, extra help is welcome.
Ms Forbes described the effort as "commendable".
Speaking about the response from members of the public and businesses, Ms Simpson said: "The crowdfund is going very well, I’ve had three sizeable cash donations, one from my employer, one from the HSPC and one from an anonymous donor who walked into my office with an envelope stuffed with £200. Sadly I wasn’t there to meet them, so if they happen to read this, I would love them to come back to the office so that I can thank them in person. All of the donations have helped to get this far and I am exceptionally grateful to each and everyone.
"I did not intend to take donations of clothing but couldn’t refuse the offer of warm clothing so I will ensure these are distributed to those in need. Sadly I cannot take any more clothes because my house is creaking under the weight, but I’m thankful for those that I have. People’s generosity has been heartwarming and I never thought I’d come so far so quickly."
With another cold snap predicted, she’s keen to get packs distributed as soon as possible.
Backers took to her crowdfunding page to voice their support.
Dee James wrote: "Really good idea. Let’s hope it’s the start of regular help for rough sleepers."
Sandra Mackenzie: "Well done Lisa good on you wish there more like you good luck."
Andy said: "Keep up the good work Lisa. It is terrible we still have homelessness in Scotland."
Her page can be seen at www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/lisa-simpson-1