Tracey Smith, who is leading the appeal to gather shoeboxes of items for Southend's homeless people this Christmas.

You may have seen our request on Facebook a few days ago to donate a shoebox full of items for Southend’s homeless this Christmas – huge thanks to everyone who has got in touch with the event organiser Tracey Smith so far with offers of help.

We caught up with Tracey to find out more about the Shoebox Appeal and other good work that she is currently involved in locally.

How did you get involved with the appeal?
I have a friend called Jo Bates who already does excellent work at the Homeless Hub in Southend, and I contacted her a little while ago to ask about donating some shoeboxes full of essential items to hand out to local homeless people this Christmas. One thing lead to another, and she gave us plenty of help to get this appeal up and running. Facebook has been massively useful in all of this, and she took care of a lot of the setting up for me.

Have you ever done anything like this before?
Not exactly. I run a Facebook group where support is provided for people with mental health issues, and I find this incredibly rewarding work. In addition to this, the group is linked to a weekly meet-up at the Life Lounge coffee shop on London Road – it’s great to be able to offer support both online and face-to-face. I feel that the problem of homelessness is getting worse in Southend, and so this has encouraged me to get involved in the Shoebox Appeal.

How can people find this online support group?
They can head over to

Do you think that being homeless is a far more difficult experience over Christmas?
Definitely. Although it is just as serious at any time of year, many homeless people are badly affected over Christmas by the lack of an emotional connection to family and friends. If people want to include a Christmas card in their shoebox, it would be an amazing gesture.

Finally, how is the appeal going so far?
I have been astonished by the amount of people that have got in touch to offer items or their spare time. If people keep donating at this rate, we should (hopefully) have enough shoeboxes to last for a whole evening of travelling around the town and handing them out to those in need.

How can people contact/help you?
My email address is [email protected] – I would be delighted to hear from anyone who is able to help in any way. Alternatively, donated items can be dropped off at 7pm on December 23rd in the Clarence Road car park, Central Southend. We are looking for the following items:

Toothbrushes – Toothpaste – Deodorant – Face/hand towels
Shower gel – Sanitary towels – Baby wipes – Toiletries
Hairbrushes – Gloves – Hats – Scarves – Socks – Sweets/crisps/biscuits

Torches – Blankets – Jumpers – Thermals

For full details about the appeal, please take a look at the original message on Facebook.