Beginning with Kindness
Impact HK never started out with the intention of creating a charity. Three years ago, our founder – Jeff Rotmeyer – had the idea of doing one kind act per month for the homeless. This would mean a walk through the more impoverished areas of Hong Kong and handing out supplies to those in need. This initiative really touched the hearts of volunteers throughout Hong Kong, becoming quite popular and giving Impact HK the opportunity to make greater impact. We progressed to doing two walks a month, then four, and so on. We now do more than 40 walks per month in five locations across Hong Kong, and ImpactHK became a registered charity in March 2017.
We are a charity built upon the kindness of hundreds of passionate volunteers. Our numbers bring power and opportunity to create massive change – not only by positively helping homeless individuals in Hong Kong, but also by changing the face of philanthropy in the territory.
Homeless in Hong Kong
There are currently more than 1,000 registered street sleepers in Hong Kong, according to Government statistics. However, these figures do not present the full picture of unregistered homeless. There are also a growing number of employed street sleepers in Hong Kong, as astronomical rents force them onto the street. In our experience, it is extremely difficult to get an accurate number of homeless in Hong Kong.
In the five areas that we serve – Yau Ma Tai, Sham Shui Po, North Point, Happy Valley and Sai Wan Ho – we serve approximately 400 homeless people each week.
Each homeless person is a unique individual with his or her own story and difficult past. It is also too easy to label them as lazy, drug addicted or too proud. There may be mental health issues, addiction issues or it may simply be the financial burden of Hong Kong’s sky high property prices. What we have seen to be the greatest commonality of the homeless people in Hong Kong is that they do not have a person that they trust enough to care for them. The overwhelming similarity among the homeless people we know is that they all need a true friend that they can trust. As a charity, providing this friendship and human connection is ImpactHK’s primary focus.
Every day, our volunteers meet with the homeless and hand out food, toiletries and other necessities. Most importantly, our volunteers offer kindness, friendship and connection, building a trusting relationship to make positive change. By becoming a regular, kind presence in these individuals’ lives, we can build trust and friendship.
ImpactHK’s goal is to provide the homeless with a connection to friends, society and a safe and comfortable home. When we feel that any of these homeless friends are willing, committed and ready to take the leap, we will endeavor to provide funds necessary for them to set up their own home.
While getting the homeless off the streets and settled into employment and their own homes is the ultimate objective of ImpactHK, this is a long and painful journey for the individuals involved. ImpactHK seeks to provide a stepping stone that is filled with love, kindness and opportunity to help these individuals. We hope to provide a rehabilitative support programme that is totally holistic in its approach, offering: counseling, financial advice, mentorship, nutritional advice, physical activity, language learning and job opportunities.
The Guestroom, our new day care centre in Tai Kok Tsui, opened in early 2018 and was a massive achievement for ImpactHK. This is the heart and focal point of our work. The Guestroom is a safe place for the homeless to visit – here, they can get fed, get new clothing, wash their clothes, get haircuts, use the computer or just relax. Serving and showing kindness to the 400+ homeless people in the surrounding area, the Guestroom fosters a sense of pride in the local homeless community and helps their rehabilitation.
The Guestroom is run by Community Helpers, a loyal workforce that ImpactHK has helped to get off the streets.
A Holistic Approach
For those that are homeless, leading an ordinary conventional existence is not just about a roof over their heads. Many require a lengthy rehabilitative process to help teach them survival skills to function in society. We take a holistic approach to this – we offer all our homeless friends a plethora of guidance, advice and counseling. From personal counseling, financial management, mentorship, nutritional advice to physical activity, ImpactHK wants to equip these people the skills to successfully integrate into the wider community.