A volunteer at the Northampton Hope Centre - a community charity that helps homeless people - has been nominated as our third ‘Northants Lockdown Legend’ for his continued efforts to feed rough sleepers across the town.
Bill Boorman went out every day, from March 13 to July 6, equipped with hot meals, drinks, snacks, clothing and sleeping bags with one mission on his mind - to ensure that every homeless person in Northampton was fed and provided for.
Bill along with his wife - Fran Boorman - initially worked with the homeless charity, Project 16:15. They received donations of money and goods and then began to work independently, setting up their Facebook page, TRUFeeds.
Mr Boorman said: “I was involved with a charity on a casual basis. I did some fundraising and I helped out on Sundays then they had an emergency where they couldn't deliver breakfast anymore and they needed help with that so I stepped forward. It was only supposed to be a couple of weeks and it evolved from there.”
As the first national lockdown came into place, soup kitchens and night shelters were not able to run because Covid regulations meant that people could not meet in groups.
Talking about what this meant for the homeless, Bill Boorman said: “The food and money went out of the system as restaurants and takeaways were closing so lots of things happened very quickly as well changing regulations that meant there was a much greater dependency on getting meals delivered.
“It was hard to go to shops and you had to find people individually rather than setting up at a central point.”
Bill, from there, began to prepare fresh home-cooked meals from his own kitchen. He cooked over 5,500 meals including lasagnas, pies, meatballs, burgers, cottage pie, chicken curry, beef stew and pasta dishes. He would spend three hours cooking and preparing the meals with his wife and then another three hours delivering them to rough sleepers across Northampton.
Bill’s wife, Fran Boorman, said: “He took real pride in the food he cooked, making sure it was fresh, tasty and nutritious. He often worked over eight hours a day. Bill drove over 5,000 miles during the time and made over 1000 stops to give out food.
“He was passionate in making sure nobody missed out and found encampments and squats where people were living.”
Bill and Fran Boorman cooked and delivered an average of 39 meals a day throughout the first national lockdown. Bill carried out his delivery-runs and welfare checks in 15 different locations across Northampton and surrounding towns from around 9pm and 10pm on a nightly basis. This is because homeless people generally would not return to the places where they sleep until late at night.
Describing his experience with delivering the hot meals, Bill Boorman said: “They got to know me so I saw most of the same people every day, it was important to get out and see that everyone was getting covered.
“There was a lot of gratitude but they got to know me so well over the three, four months I was doing it. Lots of people are now in housing thanks to the council - Outreach has been brilliant, got over 100 people into housing.”
Bill was instrumental in working with Outreach to ensure that rough sleepers were given access to hotel rooms. He put people onto buses to make sure they got to the right hotels and would pass on messages for people in the homeless community.
Fran added: “He provided support, advice and no request was ever ignored. He went above and beyond feeding, for example, going out at 2am for a welfare check and at 4am to collect a gentleman from hospital.”
Police even stopped Bill on at least seven occasions during his welfare checks - following reports from the public - to make sure he was not breaching Covid-regulations. Bill explained that this was why he had to do so many stops to ensure that there was no crowding and even the police got to know him too.
Bill, towards the end of the first lockdown, raised a takeaway fund so that he could receive donations to use the town’s takeaways to provide for rough sleepers. He received support from the charity, Go Dharmic, who helped to provide and deliver meals.
Many generous people donated to him directly but Bill and Fran did their utmost to network with every source they could think of. Bill said: “I had a lot of donations coming in from the US. I used to run events so I’ve got a big digital global network so it’s that network that has donated and funded everything.”
The Hope Centre reopened in July and that was when Bill began volunteering with them. He currently works there for five days a week and has additionally been supporting SWEP.
We asked Bill how he feels to be nominated as the third ‘Northants Lockdown Legend’. He said: “I’m very flattered to be nominated because so many other people, including the council, were doing great things for the community.
“It was a privilege to have the time to go and do it because that’s something I wouldn't have had in my normal day-to-day life. The things I have learnt about the homeless compared to what I think now, there’s so many layers.
“The support you need to provide to the homeless - who are now housed - to prevent them from naturally falling back into old habits, it's very easy outside of being in this to be very critical of the council or the Outreach team but, once you are inside, it is truly remarkable and life changing. I am humbled to be nominated. There are lots of people who deserve credit at the minute.”
Bill was given a 'Rose of Northamptonshire Award' in recognition of his hard work and he will be involved with the 'Everyone In' scheme launched by Northamptonshire County Council, which saw thousands of homeless people moved into hotel rooms and other accommodation during lockdown.
The ‘Northants Lockdown Legend’ campaign was started to give recognition to those who have gone above and beyond in their community to help others throughout the pandemic. If you want to nominate an individual or group, email [email protected] .
You can read about our last 'Northants Lockdown Legend' here.