VAL Brews Up Funding For Local Charity’s ‘Eric & Ernie’ Initiative

When local homeless charity The Bridge – Homelessness to Hope were looking to explore new funding opportunities they asked VAL, the Leicestershire charity that not only gets people into volunteering but helps community groups and organisations thrive through helpful advice, introductions and mentoring.

The Voluntary Action LeicesterShire (VAL) team have provided vital support to the charity by enabling them to secure £30,000 of investment for an additional mobile coffee wagon.

Ernie – the original mobile coffee wagon – was believed to be the first of its kind in the charity sector outside of London. He is a converted milk float that was generously donated to the charity by local dairy, Kirby & West, who later donated an old ice cream trailer which is now called Eric.

Based on Melton Street in Leicester, The Bridge – Homelessness to Hope has been helping homeless people to turn their lives around since 2009 by providing up to 100 early breakfast servings for rough sleepers per week and almost 10,000 meals per year to the homeless and vulnerable alongside a range of specialist support services including mentoring and mental health wellbeing.

Like most charities, The Bridge – Homelessness to Hope is restrained by finances. Although successful at bidding for new projects, funding core costs is impossible.

Always keen to explore new funding opportunities, the charity attended VAL’s annual Funding Fair, where local Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) organisations can learn more about how to seek support to find funding. The Bridge – Homelessness to Hope were introduced to the Key Fund, a social investor that provides flexible grant and loan packages to support VCS organisations, social enterprises and charities.

Keith Lawson-West, Trustee at The Bridge – Homelessness to Hope says: “We wanted to set up a social enterprise to cover our core costs. VAL was pivotal to this vision by introducing us to Key Fund. With their help, we got our social enterprise – ‘The Bridge to Hope’, a wholly-owned Community Interest Company (CIC) – up and running quickly. “They’ve supported us in setting up a mobile coffee wagon to help raise funds and we’ve also converted an ice-cream trailer to a second coffee wagon.”

Kevin Allen-Khimani, Executive Manager – Public Sector Contracts and Projects at VAL says: “It’s a privilege to work with charities such as The Bridge – Homelessness to Hope and provide them with the advice and contacts to support their fundraising initiatives.

“What drew us to the mobile coffee wagons in particular was the fact that all proceeds from the sales go straight back in to the charity.  Everyone buying from them not only gets a perfectly brewed cup of coffee, but is safe in the knowledge that they are playing their part in helping Leicester’s homeless community.”

All proceeds from sales go towards supporting the various specialist services offered by the charity for the city’s homeless community.

VAL have been helping volunteer and community groups to thrive for fifty years and across a range of services encompassing education, employment, support and funding for some of the hardest to reach and most marginalised in society. In 2018 VAL contributed £4.1 million to the local economy through helping 177 people into work and £1.62 million in funding for local voluntary groups through its services.

To find out how your business, charity or group could value from talking to VAL contact them on 0116 257 5050 or visit
For more information on The Bridge – Homelessness to Hope, visit
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