THE hardships suffered by the growing number of Wirral’s homeless are being highlighted this winter as Russell Taylor Holdings joins YMCA Wirral in its work to support those with nowhere to call home.
Already the centre’s night shelter in Whetstone Lane, Birkenhead, is full to capacity with demand set to rise as Christmas gets closer and colder weather begins to bite.
Since the year-round shelter opened 10 years ago, the number of street homeless using it as a place of refuge has steadily increased, last year providing a total of 4,869 bed night places to 377 men and women.
To help ease the crisis, Russell Taylor Holdings has joined other business organisations to fund new, heavy-duty camp beds for the night shelter.
Chief executive Ben Russell said: “At this time of the year, when we’re all thinking about friends, families and generally having a good time, we need to give thought to those who are not so fortunate. Loneliness and a cold pavement is maybe all they have.
“We hope our contribution to help provide these new beds for the YMCA Wirral night shelter will in some way bring some comfort to those seeking safety while the rest of us sleep soundly in our own beds at home.”
In line with many other parts of the country, the homelessness crisis is escalating on Wirral due to problems ranging from welfare benefit cuts, mortgage and rent arrears to mental health issues and young people being thrown out by their parents. To highlight the problem and provide assistance for the men and women seeking shelter, the camp bed initiative has been co-ordinated by Woodside Ferry Village and Birkenhead-based Samelco Ltd.
Nigel Hughes, chief executive at the YMCA Wirral, said: “The homelessness crisis in Wirral, like so many other places around England, is deep due to social problems such as the lack of affordable housing and unemployment. Men and women can become homeless when they leave the armed forces or prison, are escaping abusive relationships or simply just can’t afford the rent.
“Mental health issues, relationship break-down, anti-social behaviour, alcohol and drug misuse can also see people ending up living on the streets.
“It’s an all-year-round problem but even worse at Christmas when people relying on the hospitality of friends for a bed for the night – the ‘sofa surfers’ - get turned out to make room for relatives staying over during the festive period.
“This is why we are so grateful for this support in funding new camp beds for our night shelter. These are strong, NATO-issue beds which will replace the ones that have split and broken due to their heavy use.
“A warm and comfortable bed, hot drinks, food and someone to talk to during the long winter nights is the least we can do as we work to try and pick up the pieces of broken lives.”
Sharon Stanton, managing director at Woodside Ferry Village, added: “This time of year only seems to highlight the homeless issue which is faced not only in Wirral but nationwide all year round. Since opening the food hall venue at Woodside Ferry Village, we have been determined to play a part in supporting and helping YMCA Wirral to offer refuge and services in helping those in desperate need of shelter and care.”
The night shelter at YMCA Wirral provides emergency overnight beds for up to 12 men and five women. This is in addition to the 56 bed spaces at the Whetstone Lane centre.
The shelter has now been named the Rod Graham Room in memory of the man whose inspiration helped to created the safe refuge.
Nigel said: “Sadly, Rod passed away recently after retiring to Crete following years of working at the YMCA. His all-round caring attitude made him one of our most popular members of staff and he made a massive impact on the lives of many hundreds of Wirral’s street homeless.”