HOMELESS charities in Blackpool are looking forward to a brighter winter – thanks to Gazette readers.
The Bridge Project, Streetlife and Oasis, which provide food and shelter for vulnerable adults and teenagers throughout Blackpool, have been badly hit by the recession.
But since a special investigation by The Gazette – highlighting the cash crisis faced by local homeless charities – the groups say they have been overwhelmed by the number of donations from the public.
Andy Whetton, relief manager at the Salvation Army’s Bridge Project on Raikes Parade, said: “We’ve had more donations of clothes in a week than we normally get in three months. It has been incredible.”
With more than 2,000 homeless people in the resort, and the number growing steadily, the charities are a lifeline to many. The Bridge Project is a drop-in day centre, open four days a week and offering food and support for the homeless.
Mr Whetton added: “There has been a huge response, people popping in with not just one bin bag worth of clothes but six or seven.
“We’ve asked everyone who has donated whether it is a result of The Gazette’s coverage and in almost every case it was.
“We’re delighted because it was desperately needed.
“The amount of people we are dealing with has gone from 40 a day to more than 100 in the last 18 months and it is an increasing struggle to meet that demand.”
The recession has been a key reason in the increase. People have fallen on hard times and lost their homes, which means charities are dealing with more individuals than ever before.
At Oasis, an eight-bed night shelter for adults on Cookson Street, project worker Iris Blain said The Gazette’s campaign had been priceless.
She explained: “I have been working here since it opened six years ago and I’ve never seen a surge in support like we’ve had over the last week.
“It really has put us on the map and we’ve had so many people phoning up and wanting to donate money and clothes.
“You wouldn’t believe how grateful some homeless people are just for a clean pair of socks, so every little thing really does help.”
Streetlife, which runs a day centre and a night shelter for homeless youngsters, has also had a big response.
Chief Executive Jane Hugo said: “It has been brilliant and as well as an increase in donations and the number of people wanting to volunteer. The best thing has been the awareness raised.
“People in the town didn’t realise how easy it is to fall on hard times and become homeless.
“Thanks to the Gazette’s articles they do now and I know quite a few people who were moved to tears when they read them. It will hopefully help us have a brighter future because times are tough and the donations were massively needed.”