Harpur’s helping hand to the homeless
The Harpur Trust has long been supporting local homeless charities, and regular recipients of grants include the YMCA, Salvation Army, Amicus Trust, Kings Arms Project, and Emmaus. All are doing great work in supporting homeless people, providing shelter and most importantly, giving them the ongoing support they need to help them get off the streets once and for all.
Homelessness in all its forms from temporary and insecure accommodation to the more visible street homelessness is rising across the country. In January this year, Homeless figures were released revealing that the number of rough sleepers in Bedford has rocketed by 29%, contrasting with a national rise of 12%. Shockingly we have the joint 7th highest number of rough sleepers of any local authority in England, an issue of significant concern to many ordinary citizens in the town.
We have been working closely with local groups over the past couple of years to find out how we as local funders can best use our resources to have an impact on the problem in Bedford. This is not as simple as it might first appear; the causes of homelessness are complex and include both structural issues such as government policy and individual personal circumstances. What became increasingly clear to us was that we could help various agencies work together, pool resources and share information, at the same time gaining an understanding of why Bedford sees so many people sleeping on its streets.
Having consulted interested parties Trustees agreed to create and fund a brand new post based within the CVS (Community Voluntary Service) and reporting to a committee of voluntary agencies supporting homeless people. The Homelessness Inter-agency Officer helps to bring all of the different groups together and drive a collaborative, coordinated approach. A second part of the role is to raise public awareness of the many sources of support for Bedford’s homeless people already in existence so that concerned citizens can offer help where it is needed rather than duplicating services. Late last year former housing officer Sam Price (pictured ) was appointed to take on the role which we will be funding for the next three years, and over the past two months she has been busy making contact with all stakeholders and getting to grips with the issues. The project itself is gaining attention locally and nationally and she has already been interviewed on BBC Radio 4 as well as BBC Three Counties.
Sam said “I am really excited about the opportunity to work with all the fantastic groups and organisations within the homeless sector in Bedford. I truly believe that by working together, we can achieve sustainable outcomes and reduce homelessness in the borough.”