A BUS which gives homeless people somewhere to sleep is coming to Stroud.
Gerry Watkins’ charity, the Big Yellow Bus Project, currently helps rough sleepers in Cirencester, and he will now extend the service to Stroud.
There will be 10 beds for men and women aged 18 and over.
And after opening a fundraising shop for the charity in Cirencester last year, Mr Watkins says the project will be vital for rough sleepers in the district.
“The bus has already proven its worth and in an ideal world we would like to have no homeless on our streets,” said Mr Watkins.
He has been fundraising for homeless veterans for 20 years by putting on live music events all over the UK, and he was inspired to start the project during a visit to the Isle of Wight music festival in 2016 where he saw a bus converted into a bar.
Upon returning from the festival, he witnessed a shocking incident which further encouraged him to help the homeless.
“When I came back to Cirencester, there was a homeless man that was sleeping in a tent in the church grounds, and a few youths set fire to the tent with him inside.
“This upset me, so I started raising funds to buy a bus to convert it into a shelter for the homeless, and the idea has grown all over the UK, and now and I also help people up and down the country by giving them advice about buses.”
Gerry has featured in a documentary for Sky News and has also been on Channel 5 because of his project.
Stroud MP Siobhan Baillie, said: ‘I think innovative initiatives like the Big Yellow Bus project are very interesting.
“I am keen to see how this will work alongside the existing excellent work of organisations like the Salvation Army and P3 who are already providing key support for rough sleepers in our area.”
A spokesperson for Stroud District Council, added: “The reasons that people sleep on the streets are varied and complex, and it’s vital that they are given the right support by people who are trained to do so.
“The council funds an established outreach team which works with rough sleepers, engaging with them and offering support, including accommodation.
“When the weather becomes more severe, a county-wide Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) will be actioned and a temporary shelter will be made available for rough sleepers for the night, and they will be offered support to find more permanent housing.
“There are many ways to help those who are homeless, for example by volunteering for a local charity.
“P3, the Marah Trust and Stroud District Food Bank are just some of the local organisations that rely on volunteers to keep them running.”
A spokesperson for the Marah Homeless Trust praised Gerry Watkins’ charity, and said: “There is a lack of emergency accommodation for rough sleepers in Stroud, which is an issue for all small rural towns.
“The arrival of a project like the Big Yellow Bus, providing a safe place for rough sleepers to stay in Stroud will be a great help to those in need.”
Please contact Mr Watkins if you wish to donate or become a volunteer, on firstname.lastname@example.org, 07808030220, the Facebook Group is the Big Yellow Bus Project.
The charity number is 1186515.