A lack of help for the homeless spurred a kind group to take matters into their own hands.
Carly Michael, Joanne Rutherford and Emily Davidson started a Facebook page to raise awareness about homelessness and get people to donate supplies.
A week later, the friends have 1,000 followers and have begun handing out soup, sleeping bags and gloves all over Newcastle.
Carly, from Wallsend, said she decided to start the page after it became impossible to find somewhere in the city to volunteer. She said:
“Me and my friends wanted to work in a soup kitchen on Christmas Day and we couldn’t find anywhere to do it. Everywhere was already full up, and there just aren’t enough of them
“So we set up our own page on Facebook and it went through the roof. We’ve got over 1,000 likes already and it’s only been a week.
“Now we’re handing out flasks of soup, sleeping bags, hats and gloves all around the city centre.”
Carly, 30, along with her friends Joanne and Emily, are asking people to donate what they can over the Christmas period.
The ladies plan to hand out any supplies they are sent to people sleeping rough on the streets of Newcastle.
Carly said news of the death of homeless man Darren Robson in Whitley Bay last week spurred her and her friends on to do something to help. She said:
“Winter is fast moving and it’s getting colder out there.
“Hearing news of the poor homeless man setting himself on fire to keep warm by accident really makes it hit home.
“I just thought we definitely had to do something to help.”
Carly, who is training to be a support worker, said she has been blown away by the amount of people who have already donated.
“People do want to help out there, but I don’t think there are enough hostels – if there were, there would be less people on the streets at night and more opportunities for volunteers to help.
“We’ll be handing out shoeboxes full of things – I think it’s nice to give them a box that is made up personally by someone, if the box is missing any essentials then we will give the person these things too but in a separate bag.
Carly, who will be going around the city with suitcases full of supplies, said she has become passionate about the issue. She said: “I don’t think anyone should have to be on the streets in this day and age.
““That man shouldn’t have been forced to do that to stay warm, no one should have to die that way.”
“Everyone should have somewhere to sleep at night.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 26 Nov 2014
FEARS are growing over a rise in beggars who are “blighting” South Shields town centre.
Police, traders and charity workers have all expressed concern over an increase in the number operating in South Shields Town Centre.
Where once it was rare to see homeless people in street doorways it is now commonplace, with up to six individuals in the centre at any one time.
Gazette research has located several locations in and around King Street where beggars have been operating.
These have included outside of McDonald’s restaurant, the PDSA charity shop in the Market Place, the doorway of a vacant premises beside the British Heart Foundation, Lloyds Bank, at the Games Workshop in the Denmark Centre and at Morrisons in Ocean Road.
Today, the public were advised to give food and clothing to beggars but not money, as many are believed to be using cash handed over to buy drugs and alcohol.
Gill Peterson, assistant manager at Age UK in the Denmark Centre, regularly has beggars operating on either side of her shop.
Mrs Peterson says she has reached the “end of her tether” at their activities, claiming they scare off customers, hurl abuse and rifle through bins at the back of the premises.
She added: “I’m sick of them. They scare customers off, particularly our elderly ones and we are losing trade as a result.
“Any money they get just goes on buying bottles of cider. Every morning, I have to get in early to sort out the bins they have emptied through the night.
“If I approach them, I just get a mouthful of abuse. They are blighting the town.”
Amelia Luffrum, project director with Hospitality and Hope, the borough-based food bank and soup kitchen, said the public should only offer beggars food.
She said: “Homelessness is definitely rising from our experience.
“Some of the people who are out in these doorways, asking for money, come to our soup kitchens. They are in genuine need.
“Dependency on drink and drugs is a major issue. Our policy is never to give money. We feed them, give them sleeping bags and clothes, and direct them to different agencies.”
Neighbourhood Inspector Peter Sutton, of the Riverside Police Team, acknowledged there was a problem and said the situation was being monitored.
He added: “We are aware of the issue and are actively working with our partners on how the situation can be addressed, as concerns have been raised around criminality and vulnerability.”
Latest statistics show a 54 per cent rise in people seeking homelessness assistance from the local authority last year, from 187 to 534.
The impact of welfare reforms, including the ‘bedroom tax’, and a struggling economy, are among the reasons for the increase.
Source – Shields Gazette, 20 Jan 2014