“Everything felt safe, very safe” – the verdict of one of the rough sleepers who stayed at the Night Light shelter in Basingstoke last winter. It’s an opinion shared by most of the guests who found a hot meal, a warm bed and the friendly welcome of somebody who cares.
The shelter, held in churches in the town centre area for the first time last year, was one of the beneficiaries of the Real Change not Loose Change campaign and it made a real difference to the lives of the local homeless community.
Generous donations of money, time through volunteering, food and equipment from local people had a positive impact. Ultimately, 32 people who might have found themselves regularly sleeping on the streets were encouraged to find secure accommodation after visiting the night shelter.
In addition, some of the funds raised have allowed the town’s Camrose Day Centre to open for a third day and it recently acquired a new shower room for homeless visitors.
While so many people have been helped, it is estimated that between 15 to 25 people are still sleeping rough on the borough’s streets today, highlighting the need to provide ongoing support.
As part of this effort, the Social Inclusion Partnership - which includes a range of specialist, voluntary, statutory, faith and community groups – has launched Real Change 2017 and is asking residents and businesses to help in the effort to provide much-needed shelter and vital support to people sleeping rough on the borough’s streets.
Through a crowdfunding site, the Social Inclusion Partnership hopes to raise just over £16,000 to fund this year’s Night Light winter shelter to open for seven days a week from December to February, extend the third day of opening trial at the Camrose Day Centre and provide safe storage for people sleeping rough to keep their personal possessions in.
Volunteers are needed to work at the winter shelter and Camrose Day Centre and there are many more opportunities to give time and items to support homeless services, groups and organisations in the borough.
Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council’s Deputy Leader and Chair of the Social Inclusion Partnership said: “The generous response from local people to last year’s Real Change not Loose Change campaign was overwhelming and made a huge difference to the lives of many people sleeping rough.
“Sadly, people are still sleeping rough on the borough’s streets and as the weather turns colder, we are determined to set the ball rolling once again to provide essential support to those who are most in need.
“By working together we can make a real difference. I encourage everyone to support this joint effort in any way they can to help improve the lives of more people who have, for whatever reason, found themselves in this desperate position. Everyone, from businesses to residents, can show their support by donating time, money or items, however small, as an alternative to giving directly to people on the streets.”
You can support Real Change by:
• Calling Streetlink on 0300 500 0914 or visiting http://streetlink.org.uk/ if you are worried about someone sleeping rough
• Support local homelessness charities and services as an alternative to giving money directly to people on the streets
• Donate at www.spacehive.com/real-change-basingstoke-2017 to help raise funds for the Night Light winter shelter, a continuation of the third day of opening at the Camrose Day Centre and safe storage for people sleeping rough to keep their personal possessions in.
Full details of all of the opportunities to volunteer and donate and more information about the Social Inclusion Partnership and the Real Change not Loose Change campaign are available at www.basingstoke.gov.uk/real-change