A fair number of local residents have got in touch about homeless people in and around Weston town centre. It isn’t a new problem, of course; most towns and cities have a shifting group of ‘rough-sleepers’, plus a larger group of at-risk people whose accommodation isn’t secure and are either sofa-surfing with friends or staying in temporary digs and hostels instead.
My first official contact with the issue came about 20 minutes after I’d been declared Weston’s MP for the first time, when a homeless gentleman buttonholed me at 4am in the morning as I left the election-night count to ask for my help. And there’s been a steady trickle of people who’ve come to my regular weekly surgeries ever since.
But whether their housing problems are caused by an addiction, family breakup, mental illness, losing a job or something else, the temperature on Weston’s streets is dropping and homeless people need our help. There are some good organisations locally, including Somewhere to Go, Weston’s YMCA, and housing associations like Curo, who all offer different types of help.
And, right at the ‘sharp end’ are two groups – Hands of Change and the Weston Homelessness Facebook Group – who are out and about checking the rough sleepers are safe and offering food, hot drinks, clothes, as well as advice on where to go next.
I went to meet some of their volunteers, and the homeless folk they’re helping, a few weeks back. And, as I hope we’d all expect, local people are responding positively too. The Town Council has earmarked £25,000 for tackling homelessness locally, including a possible night shelter. If you’re interested, check out any of the groups I’ve mentioned online – they could always do with some extra help!