Many of you will have had that familiar feeling when the mail comes through the letterbox and you just know it’s not going to be you — again. Another opportunity missed. Another chance to prove yourself among peers gone. Maybe next year. Maybe.
Or maybe this year. For those who like me, were rejected again by RideLondon (WHY ME?!?), there is still hope, and not only hope but the promise of helping others as well as testing yourself against the fastest.
Local homelessness charity SPEAR have RideLondon places for cyclists willing to raise sponsorship for them. For an initial registration fee of just £30, you can secure a place to ride the 100 miles from the Olympic Park to the Surrey Hills before heading back to a spectacular finish on The Mall.
If you’re not aware of what SPEAR does, it’s been going for almost 30 years. Set up by local resident Penny Wade after two homeless people died in 1986 when sleeping rough in Richmond, SPEAR helps people from homelessness to independence. Initially a night shelter was started, but this became permanent accommodation on Kew Road in Richmond, now known as Penny Wade House, able to provide 14 people at a time with the chance to make a fresh start away from the streets. SPEAR now operates across south and west London. Its head office is on Heath Road, Twickenham.
SPEAR also offers accommodation to young people between the ages of 16-21, all of whom work with a key worker to address particular support needs, offering a genuine chance for them to turn their lives around. SPEAR recently won funding to extend its women’s services and deliver more benefit to local women affected by domestic violence and homelessness.
The SPEAR pathway provides support for clients throughout their journey from homelessness through hostels to independent accommodation and into private sector rented housing. SPEAR helps build confidence, motivation and self-esteem, and develop skills leading to better health and wellbeing, and employment opportunities.
Leo, who is participating in RideLondon this year, tells his story of how SPEAR helped him:
“I had been sleeping rough for six months and had lost my sense of purpose and direction when I called the SPEAR helpline. Through their support I was encouraged to see my GP and get back on my medication and go to counselling to address my depression. I gained guidance and advice and housing support. I was moved into one of their supported independent flats.
I was given clear goals to work towards and encouraged to involve myself in volunteering and I now manage one of the hostel gardens. I have also signed up to the Skills and Development Programme’s Peer Mentoring service. SPEAR regularly call me and check how I am and more recently I have decided to set myself a really big challenge and take part in Ride London 2016 for SPEAR and cycle 100 miles. I have gone a long way in one year and I am very thankful for this support. You helped me change my life, and you can change even more lives.”
SPEAR recognises the importance of cycling and runs a bicycle maintenance course for clients as part of its Skills Development programme, where clients can achieve an accredited qualification.
If you’re interested in helping raise funds for SPEAR and getting into RideLondon this year, SPEAR will support you all the way. It offers advice about setting up your online fundraising page, a Ride London fundraising pack, a pre-event information evening and a cheering point on the day for friends and family. All the money raised will go towards supporting homelessness. You can get more information and register here.
[Contributed by Bill Webb-Ellis]