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Charity's campaign helps former homeless man back into education

Left to right: Sonia Plume, acting inspector at Bury St Edmunds, Mark Cordell, chief executive of Our Bury St Edmunds, David Bonnett, Bury Drop In co-founder, Greg Luton, Bury St Edmunds town clerk, Sara Mildmay-White, cabinet member for housing, Andrew Speed, chairman of Bury Town Council, Robert Everitt, cabinet member for families and communities, and PC Paul Fox, community engagement officer Picture: MICHAEL STEWARD

Left to right: Sonia Plume, acting inspector at Bury St Edmunds, Mark Cordell, chief executive of Our Bury St Edmunds, David Bonnett, Bury Drop In co-founder, Greg Luton, Bury St Edmunds town clerk, Sara Mildmay-White, cabinet member for housing, Andrew Speed, chairman of Bury Town Council, Robert Everitt, cabinet member for families and communities, and PC Paul Fox, community engagement officer Picture: MICHAEL STEWARD

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A Bury St Edmunds charity's campaign encouraging the public not to give money to people on the streets is helping a former homeless man back into education.

David Bonnett, co-founder of Bury Drop in, at the charity's Trinity Methodist Church base Picture: ARCHANTDavid Bonnett, co-founder of Bury Drop in, at the charity's Trinity Methodist Church base Picture: ARCHANT

The Looking for Change campaign – launched by the Bury Drop In centre in October last year – asks people not to give money directly to rough sleepers as it is sometimes spent on feeding alcohol or drug addictions.

People on the streets asking for money are also not always rough sleepers, but instead out to dupe kind-hearted members of the public.

Bury Drop In, supported by west Suffolk councils, and other organisations including Our Bury St Edmunds Business Improvement District, Bury Town Council and Suffolk police, launched the Looking for Change campaign to offer an alternative.

People can text or donate online to the charity and the money is available as grants to people who have been rough sleeping, have received support for addiction issues and are ready to move to temporary accomodation.

The Looking for Change campaign was launched last year Picture: WEST SUFFOLK COUNCILSThe Looking for Change campaign was launched last year Picture: WEST SUFFOLK COUNCILS

The campaign has so far raised £2,000 and the first person to benefit will be Steve (not his real name).

Looking for Change will help pay for a laptop so that Steve can gain qualifications with a view to starting work in the future.

MORE: Charity calls for public to change the way it gives to the homeless

David Bonnett, from Bury Drop In, said: “Steve was homeless and rough sleeping for many years. He had his demons to overcome from his childhood and had moved on from taking cannabis to injecting heroin.

“He found himself surrounded by users, vulnerable and easily led on. He was desperate for a hostel place and made the conscious decision to kick the drugs which is a battle in itself, but he had a support worker who believed in him more than he believed in himself, and spurred him on to achieving objectives to help him rebuild his life.

“Now he has a place to live and genuine friends who care about him. He is studying for a qualification – he has ambition and above all else he has hope – and through the generous public donations to Looking For Change we are able to support him towards his goals.”

Run by volunteers, The Bury Drop In not only serves food and a warm drink to but also works with other agencies to help rough sleepers get a roof over their head, any support they may need, improved health, education, clean clothes, a job and to reconnect with their families if they want to.

Sara Mildmay-White, west Suffolk councils cabinet member for housing, said: “This campaign is about Looking For Change for the lives of the people who are living on our streets and other outdoor places.

“Rough sleeping and homelessness isn’t just an issue in the winter, it is one that we are working to reduce all year round. Steve is just one example of how Looking For Change can make a real difference.”

In September, west Suffolk councils set up a team of rough sleeper support workers after securing government funding while the authority has also invested in temporary accommodation with support staff within.

The council says the rough sleeper support team, which includes expertise in mental health and addiction support, has not only reduced the number of people rough sleeping in west Suffolk from 37 in September down to 10 at the end of February, but also intervened to prevent people returning to rough sleeping on more than 30 occasions.

People can support the Looking for Change campaign by texting WROO36 £(amount) to 70070 or visit www.justgiving.com/burydropin

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