THE response to an appeal for the town to come together to end homelessness in Newbury has been “amazing”, according to campaigner and charity worker Catherine Knight.
Two weeks ago Mrs Knight called through the Newbury Weekly News for collective action to help those sleeping rough find more permanent accommodation and re-integrate themselves back into the community.
Within days, the calls began to come through, with offers of help from tradespeople, politicians, churches, charities and businesses from the area.
“We can safely say the community has engaged,” said Mrs Knight. “We’ve had a range of people come forward, including a few landlords and a solicitor, who have offered their help.
“We are having a meeting this week to establish everyone’s thoughts and see where we are.”
In January, the Newbury Weekly News featured the stories of two rough sleepers in the town – George, a former soldier who has spent the last 17 years on the streets of Newbury, and Ashley, a 25-year-old who had recently been made homeless.
In a move that has delighted Mrs Knight, both have since been offered accommodation.
“We heard from Donnington Hospital Trust, who offer help to the elderly, and Young People and Children First West Berkshire were very quick to try to get in touch with Ashley,” she explained.
“It’s been an amazing response in such a short period of time.”
Mrs Knight has spent years working in the community to help tackle a variety of issues, including linking with the church, Loose Ends charity and the Salvation Army, and put herself forward as a go-between for the different parties who wish to become involved in the initiative.
Working with the chairwoman of homeless charity Loose Ends, Pamela Hayden, and fellow community campaigner Erica Gassor, Mrs Knight is hoping to harness the goodwill of the people of Newbury to end the homeless situation for good.
She ultimately hopes the community will provide the means to establish a centre for the homeless in Newbury, focusing on re-integrating people back into society.
“It’s still very early days,” she said. “And we still need a piece of land to set up some form of accommodation.
“What is clear there are plenty of people out there doing great work and there are plenty of people out there willing to help. And so far the reaction has been very pleasing, but in Newbury we can always do better.”
In January, Government figures revealed that the number of homeless people sleeping rough on any given night in West Berkshire was 14. However, local experts agree that the true number is likely to be far higher as the statistics do not include those who find accommodation through ‘couch surfing’.
Anyone wanting to get involved in discussions to help tackle the homelessness issue in Newbury can contact Catherine Knight on 07470 400285 or email email@example.com