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Homeless charity fundraisers hear first hand experiences of life on the streets

PUBLISHED: 14:19 26 January 2019 | UPDATED: 08:53 28 January 2019

Jan Sheldon, St Martins chief executive (second left), with volunteers and fundraisers at the event in Old Buckenham. Picture: Simon Parkin

Jan Sheldon, St Martins chief executive (second left), with volunteers and fundraisers at the event in Old Buckenham. Picture: Simon Parkin

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Fundraisers and volunteers for a Norfolk homeless charity got to learn first hand just how important its work is from people who have been helped off the streets.

Homelessness in Norwich is a problem, but the charity St Martins has said numbers of rough sleepers are falling. Picture: Antony KellyHomelessness in Norwich is a problem, but the charity St Martins has said numbers of rough sleepers are falling. Picture: Antony Kelly

Supporters of St Martins Housing Trust – which helps those who are homeless in Norwich and across Norfolk – gathered in Old Buckenham to hear about the work of the charity and its plans, including a new accommodation project for people with complex needs.

More than £36,000 has been raised for a Norwich-based homeless charity over the past year thanks to the efforts of volunteers collecting at supermarkets and contributions from businesses and local organisations.

Two people who had been sleeping on the streets before being helped first at Bishopbridge House, the charity’s 30-bed ‘direct access’ hostel, then on to more permanent accommodation, spoke about their own experiences.

One, who preferred just to be known as Tim, explained he had struggled with drug addiction and had spells in prison as well as on the streets but was now turning his life around.

Bishopbridge House, a 'direct access' hostel, is just onje of the services run by St Martin's Housing to help homeless people get off the streets. Picture: Antony KellyBishopbridge House, a 'direct access' hostel, is just onje of the services run by St Martin's Housing to help homeless people get off the streets. Picture: Antony Kelly

He said: “This is a way giving something back by coming to tell people how their money is being used, how important it is, and how great the staff are at St Martins. Rather than people just saying they have given to the homeless hopefully they see how it actually helps people.”

Jan Sheldon, St Martins chief executive, said hearing directly from people helped to bring home their experiences.

“I can talk and tell them how it is but actually it is much more powerful if some of the people who we are supporting are able to tell a little bit about the work that we have done and what it has meant to them. It makes a real difference,” she said.

“It is absolutely critical to come out and speak to the people who are supporting our work. They need to know exactly what a difference they are making.

Bishopbridge House, a 'direct access' hostel, is just onje of the services run by St Martin's Housing to help homeless people get off the streets. Picture: Antony KellyBishopbridge House, a 'direct access' hostel, is just onje of the services run by St Martin's Housing to help homeless people get off the streets. Picture: Antony Kelly

“We couldn’t balance our books without this unrestricted income that comes from fundraising activities so it makes a huge difference to us.”

Volunteer fundraising coordinator Michael Bartlett said a record breaking £36,055 was handed to St Martins on Saturday, from collections at supermarkets, donations from individuals and companies, All Saints’ Church, Old Buckenham 2000 Trust and the Methodist Chapel at Old Buckenham.

It included £34,779 in supermarket collections and through local stores; £1,082 from events like Christmas fundraising; and £524 from a carol service at All Saints’ church.

He said: “St Martins do so much good work. They don’t just offer a night shelter to people then let them go back on to the streets, they try to get them a job, get them stabilised and try to make sure they get the help they need.”

For more information about St Martins Housing Trust and its services visit the charity’s website at stmartinshousing.org.uk

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