Ed Holt speaks to Jack Percival – the founder of the Croydon-based charity Percy’s Homeless Hub – about the community for homeless people the charity is building.
Jack Percival’s inspirations behind Percy’s Homeless Hub are personal. After falling out with his parents and “hanging around with a bad crowd”, at just 17-years-old, Percival found himself homeless for a short space of time “I just sort of sofa-surfed, I slept on the street a few times. I experienced some stuff on the street that weren’t great.”
Percival now 28 has since reconciled with his parents and lives in Chipstead, Surrey with his two children. His “second lease of life” was thanks to the kindness of “my Karen”, a family friend who took Percival in off the street. Karen became “like a mother figure” and she taught Percival the important life lesson that “no matter what you’ve done in your life, you still deserve a warm meal and clothes on your back, no matter your circumstances.” When Karen passed away unexpectedly five years ago, Percival decided to do something in her memory and Percy’s Homeless Hub became a fitting tribute. A place where those in need can get a warm meal and the help they need. “Not everyone manages to get a second lease of life, so it’s about making them (homeless people) comfortable” he said.
Percy’s Homeless Hub first started with Percival taking the bus to East Croydon with six bottles of water and six store-bought sandwiches to hand out to homeless people. Percival started documenting his charitable work on social media. From there the charity gained a social media following. Through public donations the charity has grown constantly since then and now has its own team of volunteers helping every week, making meals for those in need.
Percival had always envisioned opening a mobile soup kitchen as part Percy’s Homeless Hub. Through donations on social media and the “big contribution” made by Golf Captain John Stanton who chose Percy’s Homeless Hub as his 2021 charity of the year at Chipstead Golf Club; where Percival works as the Course Manager. Through these donations £13,000 was raised to buy a burger van. Percy’s Homeless Hub continues to be funded through people’s generous donations via social media. With these donations, every Monday the burger van parks on Croydon High Street and serves warm soup and burgers to between 400-500 people each month.
Adam Melius previously worked with Percival at Chipstead as a chef, Melius has become Percival’s “right-hand man”. Percival, Melius and the rest of the Homeless Hub have created a network of support for people who are often forgotten about in society. Percival said: “it’s a Homeless Hub not just a soup kitchen. We have ten to twenty people who stay to chat and we have developed friendships, we can help them get the assistance they need]” Percy’s Homeless Hub works closely with fellow Croydon charity Change Grow Live, which can help homeless people access counselling, get help with alcohol or substance abuse and find them a bed for the night.
Percival observes that the number of people using Percy’s Homeless Hub are “ever increasing”, an unsurprising observation considering Shelter estimates that an astonishing 1 in 58 Londoners are homeless and in areas like Croydon, 2,632 of those are children.
A lot of people using the Homeless Hub are not what you might consider traditionally homeless. With the cost of living crisis people are having to make the choice between heating and eating, Percival says: “anyone is welcome and anyone can come down.” “I’ve met people before who have a property but it’s not much different to being out on the street, some people don’t have hot water, they may have a roof over their heads but essentially they don’t.” Talking about the Shelter data, Percival said: “that doesn’t surprise me, our numbers have been increasing, we have a queue of people waiting on Mondays.”
Looking to the future, Percival is looking to continue expanding the Homeless Hub. By operating the soup kitchen two days a week, the charity can “double the output of meals per month.” To do this, Percival is: “waiting for revenue to build up and were still making a name for ourselves. It’s difficult with prices going up and more people coming as well. Hopefully, increasing capacity will increase donations.”
If Percy’s Homeless Hub track-record is anything to go by, you can expect to see the charity to continue to grow. Percival and the rest of the teams amazing work shows how one man’s act of kindness can inspire others to do the same, from there anything is possible.