A HOMELESSNESS charity’s annual fundraiser has renewed the Housing Minister’s determination to tackle the issue in the Island – as he experienced sleeping rough for the first time.
Deputy David Warr spent a night in Pier Road car park on Friday as part of the Sanctuary Trust’s Sleep Out event, which saw participants abandon the comfort of their homes from 8pm to 6am to raise funds for the organisation.
Deputy Warr said he was ‘in awe’ of the work being done by the trust – which supports up to 30 men across three sites, as well as other organisations – to house people who were struggling.
This year’s event produced record attendance numbers with around 100 Islanders, including several politicians, braving the cold concrete floor with cardboard and sleeping bags.
A fundraising total of £40,000 had been reached by yesterday afternoon.
Commenting on whether the experience had renewed his spirit to tackle the Island’s homelessness issue, Deputy Warr said: ‘Totally – it is tremendous to see how many people are out here but it’s also about that sense of awareness we are trying to create as a government.
‘This housing crisis isn’t just simply about people accessing homes, it’s people at the very bottom who have got nowhere to go.’
He added: ‘The challenge for us is how do we resolve it [the problem]. How do we get people off a park bench and into home ownership and give them what I call security of tenure, so they are not worrying about whether their home is going to be taken away from them?
‘If we can develop that, in the long run that has got to be better for society as a whole.
‘We have got to find a way to embrace people who find themselves in the most difficult of circumstances.’
Sanctuary Trust chair Frank Walker said the Sleep Out had turned into ‘a really major event’.
‘We just can’t believe it – it’s an amazing sum of money to be raised through an event such as this,’ he said.
‘We are just overwhelmed, in all honesty, with the generosity of so many people. It’s not just the money we are raising, it’s the volunteers that have helped us – La Moye School, Highlands College, Cooper’s, a whole stack of people have come together to support us.’
He added: ‘We probably had around three times as many people as we did last year and in terms of the money we are raising, that will be at least three times what we raised last year so we are breaking records all over the place – entirely thanks to the support of so many wonderful people.’
He also thanked social housing provider Andium Homes for a £5,000 donation ‘which covers all our expenditure, and means that every penny we raise goes directly into helping homeless men’.
Sanctuary Trust general manager Sarah Tumelty said: ‘I think people are becoming more aware of the problem that exists in the Island – it’s great to see so many people turn up for this year’s Sleep Out.’