Organizer Spotlight: The Sock Mob
The Sock Mob started informally in 2003, when a group of London based friends decided to start walking around their city every week, rain or shine, interacting with the homeless population. They’d offer a clean pair of socks to the the men and women they met on the street, and came armed with tea, sandwiches, and toiletries. Most importantly, they’d linger on their walks, talking, listening, and building relationships. Soon enough, the homeless were referring to the group as “the sock people,” and by 2008, they were organizing their volunteer community on Meetup.
Maggie Lee is the current Organizer of the Sock Mob. She was introduced to the Meetup several years ago by Co-Organizer Martyn Lloyd. When Martyn first mentioned the group to Maggie, the concept hit home. Fifteen years ago, Maggie found herself homeless in London, pregnant with her son Sam. She spent ten months living in a hostel for the homeless. Having been homeless herself “gave Maggie a very original perspective,” says Martyn.
Maggie remembers her first Sock Mob Meetup well. Despite her personal experience with homelessness, she was apprehensive. “I remember feeling so nervous,” she says. “I remember thinking: ‘how do you speak with homeless people?’” But she kept coming back, week after week, and over time, the Mobbings, as they call their Meetups, began to feel normal. “It’s no different than talking to someone at the bus stop. The fact that they’re homeless people shouldn’t make a difference.” In 2013, when the former Organizer stepped down, the group voted for Maggie to take over.
“If you haven’t had the experience of losing everything except for the clothes you stand up in, it’s very hard to work out what the one thing is that homeless people really need,” Maggie says. “What homeless people need most of all is to be acknowledged as regular human beings who happen to be in a bad situation at the moment.” Hospitals have a visitors program, and Maggie is quick to point out that even prisons have a visiting service. “The Sock Mob is no different,” she explains. “We don’t judge anyone, and we don’t ask any questions. If you need a cup of tea and a sandwich, that’s what we’re here for.”
Both Maggie and Martyn emphasize the importance of the Sock Mob’s social component. After their Mobbings, the group retreats to a pub for a drink, to relax and talk about the experience. “That part is essential,” Martyn says. “The cause is there, but you have to have the social side.”
Over the years, Martyn and Maggie have become close. “I don’t have a better friend than Maggie,” says Martyn. It’s clear that besides being a great friend, Maggie is an incredible Organizer. “She’s always there,” says Martyn. “She’ll never let you down, and she’ll never let the people on the street down either. She knows most of them by first name, and she always has a really good laugh for them too. Sometimes that’s the only thing that keeps you going, humor. You see the best in human nature.”