If you are looking for change for the lives of people who are genuinely homeless and living on the streets then there’s a way you can help make a real difference.
People shopping and working in Bury St Edmunds town centre want to ensure that their donations aren’t simply going into the pockets of professional beggars and street drinkers who are tricking the public into believing they don’t have a roof over their heads.
That’s why the Bury Drop In is renewing its campaign call, encouraging people not to give money directly to people that they see on the streets, but to instead donate to the charity. The money given is then used to help people who have been rough sleeping, have stayed in temporary accommodation while they got support for any mental health or addiction issues that they may have, and who are ready to move into more settled and permanent accommodation.
David Bonnett, chairman of the charity, said: “We first launched Looking for Change last autumn and the public support has been great raising around £6,000. It has helped people who were once homeless, get equipment to help them study, it has helped a victim of childhood abuse get to therapy sessions which in turn has helped them stay clean from drugs and start their own business. And it has bought items of furniture for people who were once on the streets but are ready to move into a home of their own.”
The Looking for Change campaign is backed by West Suffolk Council, Bury St Edmunds Town Council, Suffolk Police, Our Bury St Edmunds and the Bury Free Press.
Davina Howes, assistant director for Families and Communities at West Suffolk Council, said: “We have temporary and emergency accommodation in place to help those people who we know are rough sleeping in Bury St Edmunds. We know who they are because we regularly talk to them, whether at the Drop In or as part of work of our Rough Sleeper Outreach team which includes going out and carrying out welfare checks on people who are rough sleeping.
“Not everybody is ready to be helped and even when they are, the team works hard to ensure people don’t slip back into old habits and get evicted from the accommodation we have found for them. That’s why Looking for Change is so important – it is about giving the right help to make a real difference to people’s lives.”
The campaign also comes at a time when Bury St Edmunds has seen issues of street drinking, aggressive begging and anti-social behaviour in the town centre, the vast majority of which has been caused by people who either have their own home, or are jeopardising their place in temporary accommodation.
Mark Cordell, chief executive of Our Bury St Edmunds which represents over 400 town centre businesses, said: “While the council, police and Our Bury St Edmunds are working together to address this ongoing issue, one of the ways people can help is by simply not giving money to anybody on the streets. If you want to help those people who are genuinely rough sleeping then please donate to the Looking for Change campaign.”
Inspector Matt Paisley, of Bury St Edmunds Police, added: “We recognise there is a balance between the people who are genuinely in need which the Drop In and the council are trying to help and those who are preying on the public’s goodwill. Our role is working with the council and local business representatives to address the aggressive begging, street drinking and anti-social behaviour in the town. Looking for Change is one of the practical ways the public can play their part and help us at the same time.”
Barry Peters, editor of The Bury Free Press, also backs the campaign.
He said: “One of the hottest topics in Bury St Edmunds is the situation regarding begging. Most people want to help where they can and the Looking for Change initiative helps everyone to do that in a controlled way while ensuring the money is used in the most productive way possible.”
Greg Luton, town clerk at Bury St Edmunds Town Council, said: “We all want to help those who are less fortunate than ourselves and we aren’t asking anybody to stop caring or helping – just to do it in a way that may not feel the most gratifying but will offer the individuals the greatest chance of turning their lives around.”
The Bury Drop In charity, staffed by volunteers, has a strong track record of helping homeless people. While donations to someone on the street could go towards food or a coffee, money donated to the Bury Drop-In not only helps get food and a warm drink but also a roof over their head, support, improved health including access to dental services, education, clean clothes, a job and to reconnect with their families if they want to.”
To text donate type BSE followed by the amount; so for £5 type BSE5 and send to 70085. You can also donate online at https://burydropin.echoleft.com/fundraising/bury-looking-for-change/donate
If you know or suspect someone is sleeping rough, report it to the council’s rough sleeper team using Streetlink www.streetlink.org.uk so that it can talk to them and try to get them the help that they need.
Pictured above are Inspector Matt Paisley, Mark Cordell, David Bonnett, Barry Peters, Greg Luton and Davina Howes.