A HOMELESSNESS crisis in Barnsley will be made much worse if a ‘vital’ charity which is facing an uncertain future due to rising cases closes its doors, volunteers in the town have warned.
Barnsley Churches Drop-In Project has been dedicated to helping the town’s homeless since 2002 and was founded when two people were found in a church doorway.
The project is reliant on donations to keep providing aid to those in need and since 2014, the charity has seen a sharp increase in the number of homeless cases in Barnsley.
It’s now based in Temperance House, on Pitt Street in the town centre, but recently revealed its future is uncertain due to increasing costs and a rise in the number of people needing its services.
Volunteers for BCDP met to gather donations as part of its annual pre-Christmas collection drive - run jointly with The Rucksack Project - which were handed out to the town’s homeless on Saturday and Monday.
Adie Flute, from The Rucksack Project, told the Chronicle that BCDP provides a vital service in the town and warned that if it was to close, it would have a knock-on impact on cases which are already rising.
He added: “Every single donation helps to keep this valuable service going and ensure those who are worst off in Barnsley are not forgotten.
“The Rucksack Project has been operating in Barnsley since 2013, with a winter handout of food, clothing, sleeping bags and more. More than 90 have been handed out in the last week so it shows the enormous demand.
“Since the very beginning we have worked hand-in-hand with BCDP, who work tirelessly all year round to provide hot food, a warm place to go and a listening ear to anyone who needs it. They’re the lynchpin and if they close, everything falls apart.
“Just in the last year alone BCDP has served up more than 16,000 meals to people, from all over Barnsley, who have found themselves in really desperate situations.
“If they are forced to close then the difficulties faced by those who are the very worst off in our town will no doubt increase ten fold.”
Barnsley Council bosses vowed to do all they can to assist residents who have been sleeping rough this Christmas - after a national charity revealed twice as many homeless people died in Barnsley last year compared to the previous five years combined.
According to Shelter, more than 30 adults are homeless in the town, with 27 children listed as being homeless or living in temporary accommodation.
Although the council told the Chronicle they cannot comment on individual cases, they said they are ‘committed’ to assisting anyone who requires help.
Wendy Lowder, executive director for communities, added: “We cannot comment on individual circumstances but homelessness and rough sleeping are very complex issues with no easy solution. Our teams are committed to assisting anyone who is presenting as homeless or sleeping rough to access support.
“The Homeless Reduction Act, which was implemented in April 2018, is designed to assist those who are at risk of homelessness, as well as those who are homeless.
“The 56 days of assistance is a minimum requirement given, but our housing team will always work with people, as long as it takes, to help them find accommodation.
“In these situations, we continue to offer support but it always requires the individuals involved to engage with our teams.”
Local charities such as BCDP identified increased drug use, austerity and cuts to support services as the main causes of the rise in people seeking help.
Stephanie Peacock, MP for Barnsley East, added: “People being left to sleep rough without a roof over their heads should shame us all, and the increase in those who have tragically died on our streets shows this is a national emergency.
“Instead of removing the vital safety nets some of the most vulnerable people in our communities rely on, this callous government should immediately address this homelessness crisis and end this national shame.”