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Sleeping Rough

Cllr Colleen Atkins, portfolio holder for Homelessness and Community Wellbeing at Bedford Borough Council will be sleeping rough on Saturday 3rd March from 7pm – 7am, in the car park area at Bedford High School for Girls, as she takes part in the YMCA SleepEasy event.


There has been an increase in the number of rough sleepers nationwide. The Mayor of Bedford Borough, Dave Hodgson, also slept rough in Bedford this month to highlight this issue, and generate funds for The Kings Arms project.


Cllr Atkins, said: “I’m sleeping under the stars to raise awareness about the serious issue of homeless young people. I also want to raise money for this good cause.


Bedford Borough Council is working in partnership with the YMCA to develop a Supported Lodgings and Crash Pad scheme for young people who find themselves homeless. This provides a supported alternative to sleeping rough or sofa surfing.


There is no reason for anyone to sleep rough in Bedford, as the borough has a wide range of statutory and voluntary services that have contact with those sleeping rough. However, we hope that by taking this action ourselves, it will generate funds and highlight the services and agencies on offer that serve to help ensure such individuals are reached and prevented from being forced to live on our streets. I am fully kitted out with warm clothing and sleeping attire and just hope that the night goes by quickly, and that I am not too cold, so I manage to actually get some sleep!”


Bedford has a total of 17 rough sleepers on its streets. There are a number of factors that have influenced this figure, it would appear 10 out of the 17 individuals did not have an established local connection to Bedford and have been attracted by the range of support services we have on offer. The Council is also aware that 11 of the 13 rough sleepers, with recourse to public funds, are currently choosing not to engage with any support service, despite concerted efforts across agencies.


A crucial part of the approach to support Rough Sleepers and to provide humanitarian protection during the cold winter months is the Salvation Army’s Night Café which is run with funding from Bedford Borough Council & the NHS. The Night Café opens when temperatures are predicted to be 0oC or below and enables people sleeping rough to have some food and somewhere warm to go, particularly those who cannot access other accommodation like the Nightshelter (either by choice or because they were banned from using the services or could not claim Housing Benefit). The registered charity BeCHaR (Bedford Concern for the Homeless & Rootless) also ran its Christmas Relief in Bedford (CRIB) again this year at its Prebend Street Centre, where it is open for extended periods over the festive period.


Bedford Borough Council have recently been successful in securing further funding from the Department of Health Warm Homes Healthy People fund that will expand the scope and availability of the Night Café in cold weather by an estimated extra 15 days.


Every £30 Cllr Atkins manages to raise will provide a Crash Pad bed for one night for one homeless young person, and £50 will provide a room and much more support.


For more information on how to get involved in the YMCA SleepEasy event contact Dele Johnson or Amy Elliott on 01234 307040 or email sleepeasy@ymcabedfordshire.gov.uk


If you would like to sponsor Cllr Atkins, you can do so via her Just Giving page at http://www.justgiving.com/Cllr-Colleen-Atkins

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