A campaign encouraging members of the public not to give money to people on the streets is helping support a former homeless man back into education.
The Looking for Change campaign launched by Bury Drop In in October, asks people not to give money direct to rough sleepers, as sometimes that money is then spent feeding alcohol or drug addictions which make it harder for that person to sustain a place in temporary accommodation.
The Bury Drop In charity and West Suffolk councils are also aware that sometimes the people on the streets asking for money are not rough sleepers at all but are out to dupe kind hearted members of the public.
That is why the Bury Drop In, supported by West Suffolk councils, the Bury Free Press, OurBuryStEdmunds Business Improvement District, Bury St Edmunds Town Council and Suffolk Police, launched the Looking For Change campaign – offering an alternative whereby people can text or donate online to the charity.
The money donated is available as grants to people who have been rough sleeping, have received support for any issues of addiction and are ready to move on from temporary accommodation.
So far Looking For Change has raised more than £2000. The first person to benefit will be Steve (not his real name). Looking For Change will help pay for a laptop so that Steve can gain qualifications with a view to starting work.
David Bonnett from Bury Drop In said: “Steve was homeless and rough sleeping for many years. He had his demons to overcome from his childhood and had moved on from taking cannabis to injecting heroin.
“He found himself surrounded by users, vulnerable and easily led on. He was desperate for a hostel place and made the conscious decision to kick the drugs which is a battle in itself, but he had a support worker who believed in him more than he believed in himself, and spurred him on to achieving objectives to help him rebuild his life.
“Now he has a place to live and genuine friends who care about him. He is studying for a qualification – he has ambition and above all else he has hope – and through the generous public donations to Looking For Change we are able to support him towards his goals.”
Steve said: “Today I have got a good life I attend a drop in service they have help me in so many ways.”
Run by volunteers, The Bury Drop In not only serves food and a warm drink to but also works with other agencies to help rough sleepers get a roof over their head, any support they may need, improved health, education, clean clothes, a job and to reconnect with their families if they want to.
Cllr Sara Mildmay-White, West Suffolk councils Cabinet Member for Housing said: “This campaign is about Looking For Change for the lives of the people who are living on our streets and other outdoor places. Rough sleeping and homelessness isn’t just an issue in the winter, it is one that we are working to reduce all year round. Steve is just one example of how Looking For Change can make a real difference.”
In September West Suffolk councils set up a team of rough sleeper support workers after securing Government funding while it has also invested in temporary accommodation with support staff within. The rough sleeper support team, which includes expertise in mental health and addiction support has not only reduced the number of people rough sleeping in West Suffolk from 37 in September down to 10 at the end of February, but also intervened to prevent people returning to rough sleeping on more than 30 occasions.