Supporters have leapt to the defence of a volunteer who helps rough sleepers on the streets of Huddersfield.
Concerns have been expressed over how Dave Kennedy and his Huddersfield Change Project (HCP) operates.
But many people on social media have expressed their support for Mr Kennedy saying he is providing a valuable service not offered by the authorities.
Mr Kennedy, who set up HCP in 2015, has collected thousands of pounds in cash and donated food and other items but has yet to register his organisation with the Charity Commission, the watchdog body which regulates charities.
Questions have also been raised about whether Mr Kennedy and his volunteers have had DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) safeguarding and background checks needed by people who work with the vulnerable, and if they have insurance.
Mr Kennedy has also been contacted by Kirklees Council’ s environmental health with concerns over food hygiene issues.
Mr Kennedy goes out onto the streets distributing food and warm clothing, and holds regular ‘soup kitchens’ in the town centre.
Carolann Dyson said: “HCP, Dave and his team are amazing and do a fantastic job. Just ask the rough sleepers what they are gaining from Dave and his team then ask them what the council are doing for them.”
Sinead Mary wrote: “God forbid anyone with a heart tries to help anyone without going through official channels, which quite frankly are already overstretched and not always able to help people in need.
“Perhaps Dave may have given wrong advice, perhaps not. He’s working (literally) from the ground upwards. True grassroots, front line service.
“Keep up the good work Dave and team. Someone has to fill the gap in provision.”
Adele Richards said: “At least Dave is doing something for the homeless in Huddersfield. The council don’t do anything nor do Parliament who both seem to do everything they can to criminalise homeless people. Dave is a good guy.”
Sharon Elise Roberts wrote: “Dave is delivering help at the point of need. As he says some of our friends may have mental health issues, fears, substance abuse etc that deters them from seeking help from mainstream organisations.
“It’s a back to basics thing where food, drink and warmth (and love) are given to the person as they sit in the doorway.
“But sometimes it’s money they need so they can make a choice for themselves. We make the choice to give the money and they decide how to spend it. It might be the last choice they get.”
Former HCP volunteer Paula Morrison said: “This comment is not intended to defend the Examiner or the work of HCP. I am speaking as an ex-volunteer of the project (leaving for personal reasons).
“I still commend Dave for the work he is doing and what he is trying to achieve, however those legalities highlighted in the article are there to safeguard everyone, the project itself, those on the street and the volunteers.
“DBS checks – for volunteers there is no charge, and is a requirement because as we know, in the main these are vulnerable adults with mental health issues.
“Food hygiene, again there to protect everyone, imagine living on the street with no ready access to toilet facilities and a bout of the runs?
“Not necessarily the fault of HCP, but with recognised food hygiene standards probable cause is elsewhere such as bins as someone eluded to.
“One element not mentioned was insurance. Suppose in the cause of my work, we know the streets are dangerous, so what would happen in the event of a volunteer being harmed which resulted in loss of earnings from their substantive job? The project is not protected from liability without insurance – again the need to protect their work.”
Mr Kennedy was offered several opportunities to speak directly to the Examiner but declined.
Instead, after our first story was published, he posted a replies on Facebook.
Mr Kennedy said that “various organisations” had contacted him suggesting he register with the Charity Commission.
He said: “If we are legally required to register, we will do exactly that. If it is SUGGESTED that we register, then we will decide as a team what to do.
“And, bearing in mind that three local charities have hit hard times or folded recently due to a lack of funding, our attitude at HCP has been one of worry with regards to charity status, especially when we’ve received donations from local people and businesses without ever asking them, both financial and material-wise, which have helped us to maintain our excellent work for the people in need in this town. All incoming and outgoing receipts are on file.”
He added: “In response to the food hygiene situation, I messaged Tony from environmental health this week to assure him of our full cooperation in the matter as we had previously had difficulty printing out and accessing the form he kindly sent to us. All of this evidence is available too.”
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In another post Mr Kennedy wrote: “I fully agree with and support the people at environmental health who are just doing their jobs.
“What I don’t understand is how Kirklees Council can turn a blind eye to the horrendous and dirty conditions that our rough sleepers are in, and that some of the people they have housed and rehoused are living in, but they can try to pull us apart for serving hot food to hungry people.
“Twice over the weekend, kind strangers contacted us at HCP offering leftover food from family events, which we accepted and have given out to our friends in Huddersfield. Will the people who provide surplus food from parties also have to be regulated and given a hygiene rating?
“And what about parents who send children to school with home baked cakes and buns? Will they be regulated and rated too? Where does it end?”