A HOMELESS charity is publishing a book of poems highlighting the experiences of those who live on the streets.

The AOK Rucksack Appeal, based in Bournemouth, started with a team of volunteers filling rucksacks with essential items for those sleeping rough over Christmas. Following the appeal’s success, founder Sally Harvey sought to transform it into an official charity.

“I thought rucksacks shouldn’t be just for Christmas, so I decided to continue giving them out. We now work though all agencies to get people off the streets and into accommodation.”

She continued: “This book of poems is the first project we’ve included the homeless in themselves. I feel the big problem is the stigma to do with homelessness. If the homeless go back into the community, we need to build their self-esteem,” she explained.

“They’ve all got talents and one of those is poetry. We want people to realise that these aren’t people who are hopeless.

“It’s all been done anonymously, as these are very personal feelings from vulnerable people. We didn’t turn anybody away and we haven’t edited any of the poems, even for spelling or grammar mistakes.

“One woman wrote in prose about how she felt being homeless and it was said from the heart; so much so that she couldn’t bear to read it back through.”

Twenty contributions were made to the book, which is titled Life in a Rucksack, from homeless, and non homeless, writers. Santander in Boscombe sponsored AOK Rucksack Appeal for the printing costs and over 200 copies have been printed so far.

“The homeless people think it’s brilliant, especially those who had the chance to say something when they would otherwise be ignored,” Sarah said.

“People tend to walk past the homeless as if they’re invisible, so they feel they never get listened to.”

An event to launch the book will be held at Hotel Miramar on Tuesday, June 2, which will involve a cream tea, music and poetry readings from the new book. Tickets can be purchased by calling 01202 300982 or via the website aokrucksackappeal.org.uk.