Lancaster takes action over refugee crisis

Evonne Prior and Robert Smith with the growing pile of items.
Evonne Prior and Robert Smith with the growing pile of items.
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As people treat themselves to a haircut or manicure in preparation for the weekend, a growing pile of sleeping bags, warm clothes, and other essential items builds up inside Guys and Dolls Hair Boutique in Lancaster.

The shop, in Church Street, has become a collection point for Lancaster group Helping Hands for Calais Refugees, set up in response to the growing humanitarian crisis in Europe.

Liam Carroll, right, hands over two sleeping bags to Robert Smith at Guys and Dolls Hair Boutique

Liam Carroll, right, hands over two sleeping bags to Robert Smith at Guys and Dolls Hair Boutique

Liam Carroll, 30, from Lancaster, turns up at the door on Friday afternoon clutching two sleeping bags under his arm, offering them up to stylist Robert Smith, who has been juggling the coordination of this part of the campaign with his appointments of cuts, extensions and blowdries.

Liam said he saw the Facebook page for the group - set up by Lancaster woman Sandi Haythornthwaite - and felt compelled to help.

“The reality of seeing what is happening has really hit home,” he said.

“And also seeing nothing being done about it.”

Liam also offers to help ferry items over to the main collection point for the district at Big Yellow Storage on the White Lund Industrial Estate in Morecambe.

The items will then be taken to a drop off point in London, manned by Calaid, which has been set up to support the thousands of people currently living in makeshift shelters in the French port of Calais.

Robert, 34, said items had been steadily pouring into the shop since the Facebook group was set up on Wednesday.

He said: “It’s about showing people that we care, and to show compassion, regardless of political views.

“A lot of people want to help and they need to know how.

“This has been building up for a very long time.

“I’ve roped in two friends from Manchester to help out, who are going to drive down to the drop off point in London, probably within the next few weeks.

“We’re getting quite a lot of things now. It’s quite important that we get stuff sooner rather than later.”

Evonne Prior, who is joint owner of Guys and Dolls with Marie Crossley, said one woman returned to the shop with the entire stock of supermarket brand toothpaste from Sainsburys in Lancaster.

She said: “When Robert asked if we could become a collection point...well you can’t really say no to something like that.

“It’s just heartbreaking, so it’s good to know that we can help in some way.

“It’s such a sad situation but what Robert is doing is just amazing.”

Facebook page Helping Hands for Calais Refugees has a list of items that it is collecting. It is also looking for people willing to get involved to help coordinate the efforts.

It says it badly needs shoes (trainers or hiking shoes size 41-46/7-11), tents, covers and tarpaulins, small and medium sized jackets, travel bags, socks, candles, or other lighting equipment and belts.

It always needs tracksuit trousers, jeans size 28 - 32, blankets, sleeping Bags, soap, shamphoo, toothbrushes, toothpaste woolly hats, pants, pots and pans.

At the moment they don’t need women’s and children’s clothing and shoes, sheets or pillows, suits, town shoes, wellingtons.