CIVIC leaders joined volunteers and school pupils to mark the fourth birthday of the Oxford Homeless Project.

Headington resident Shabnam Sabir started the initiative after giving out dishes to the city’s homeless during Ramadan, the month of fasting observed by Muslims.

She then realised she could be doing more for those who were sleeping rough and set up the charity, which now provides a Monday lunch every fortnight at the Asian Cultural Centre, off Manzil Way.

Oxford Mail:

Four years on, the project feeds about 50 homeless people and some of them gathered for the party on Monday, with the team of volunteers.

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Ms Sabir said earlier: “Even though its been four years since we’ve been serving our guests I still feel goosebumps at every meal when I sit with our guests or talk to our volunteers who have come for the first time.

“It’s an incredible way to spend an afternoon with so much love in the room.”

Among those attending the party were Lord Mayor Craig Simmons and Oxford East MP Anneliese Dodds.

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Pupils aged seven to 11 from St Francis Primary School choir also attended and sang songs while other pupils decorated the tables.

Oxford Mail:

The school in Horspath Road wants to ensure that pupils have the opportunity to get involved with community volunteering.

Headteacher Fleur Belcher said: “I think the project demonstrates that given the opportunity to give to others we are able to recognise that whatever our situation we are just the same.

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“This has been about changing perceptions and allowing our children to be active and socially responsible citizens.”

Oxford Mail:

Adult students from EMBS Community College in Barns Road were also volunteers at the celebrations and caterers Happy Cakes brought tasty cakes for the celebrations.

They cooked and served, and some of them helped to decorate the hall.

Oxford Mail:

It’s not just the meals the homeless people benefit from - over the years they have also been provided with a variety of items including sleeping bags, boots, coats and tents.

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Rough sleeping in Oxford has increased in recent years and major efforts are under way to address it, including millions of pounds invested by the city council.