BLACKPOOL’S leading homeless charities are facing their worst ever cash crisis.
And there are real fears that without immediate help, the organisations which make sure there is shelter and food for the resort’s rough-sleepers could be forced to make cutbacks or even close.
As part of a special investigation, The Gazette’s Steve Canavan took to the streets to find out the pressures facing the homeless and spoke to the workers who see the issues first hand every day. And the message is simple – it would be a disaster if these charities folded.
Streetlife and the Bridge Project, two of the major homeless organisations in Blackpool, paint a worrying picture. Donations from the public are dwindling. One store room is down to its last tin of beans.
Jane Hugo, chief executive at Streetlife, which caters for homeless youngsters aged 16-25, said: “It is as tough as it has ever been to survive. Government funding is decreasing and money is tight for everyone so the donations we rely on from the public to keep us going are becoming few and far between.
“We have lost two members of staff and this year have had to turn more young people away from our night shelter than ever before.
“Our annual expenditure is about £300,000 and we are just about breaking even, but I don’t know for how much longer. It is becoming a bigger struggle for small charities every day.”
The two organisations help more than 100 homeless and vulnerable people every day.
They rely on handouts from Blackpool Council and a number of other outlets.
But with such a grim economic climate, it is getting increasingly difficult to balance the books.
At the Salvation Army – home of the Bridge Project, a drop-in centre for the homeless during the day –food, clothing and blanket supplies are running close on empty. Major Ian Harris said: “The reality is if there’s no money we don’t run. That’s the reality.
“We promote what we do, we seek funding, we ask people to help, we keep as high a profile as possible but we’re finding the people who once gave 50p or £1 to everybody now say I’ve chosen my charities and you’re either one or you’re not.”
Jason, a 21-year-old who sought Streetlife’s help when he was thrown out by his mum, told The Gazette he wouldn’t be able to survive without the facility.
He added: “I’ve been coming here for the last six months and if it wasn’t here I don’t think I would be.
“I get my food here, I get a roof over my head and it gives me a reason to go on. Without people helping us we’d have absolutely no-one.”
The aim of the charities is to help homeless people overcome their immediate problems, get them into hostels and the permanent accommodation.
But that takes time, and they need somewhere to sleep and food to eat while getting back on their feet.
Blackpool Council, which helps fund homeless charities in the resort, praised the organisations for the work they do. Coun Gillian Campbell, cabinet member for housing, said: “These volunteer organisations offer a much needed service, and work tirelessly to look after people who are sleeping rough.
“The people on the front line of homelessness show a tremendous amount of heart and compassion, in what is a humbling example of public service from those individuals.”
The Mean Streets - Steve Canavan’s views from life on the streets of Blackpool - see Wednesday’s Gazette.