Businesses bring overnight comfort to Wirral street homeless

Life for the street homeless has been made more bearable this winter thanks to vital aid and support from businesses on Wirral.

Their donations have helped to equip newly-refurbished units of accommodation at YMCA Wirral’s emergency overnight triage refuge in Birkenhead, where men and women living on the streets are provided with a place of safety and warmth.

Thanking the local companies contributing to its Winter Support Appeal, Nigel Hughes, YMCA Wirral’s chief executive officer, said their generosity had once again brought “comfort and dignity” to those suffering the hardships of cold nights out on the street.

He said, “Homelessness is still an issue even though a huge amount of work has been done both locally and nationally. However, I do worry that with worsening financial pressures the issue is not going away.

“Ongoing social problems such as the lack of affordable housing and unemployment will continue to impact people’s lives. Men and women can become homeless for a variety of reasons – when they run out of money and cannot afford rents, have to escape abusive relationships, exit the prison system or even leave the armed forces.

“Although homelessness is particularly awful during the winter months, sadly it’s an all-year-round problem too as mental health issues, relationship break-downs, anti-social behaviour, alcohol and drug misuse can see people ending up living on the streets.

“In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of the services we provide, both in keeping staff safe and supporting the needs of the homeless. This is why we are so grateful to all the local businesses for their support in the refurbishment of our emergency accommodation and also to Wirral Council whose support for us throughout the pandemic has been amazing.

“Because of their efforts, the men and women staying with us overnight can have some comfort and dignity while also receiving help and support to get them into secure longer-term accommodation.”

Businesses whose financial donations have been making a difference to the lives of the street homeless are technical recruitment specialists Russell Taylor Group, Curtis Painting Group, Recruit Right, particle board and laminate flooring manufacturer Finsa UK Ltd, Samelco Web Technology and energy and sustainability experts Inteb together with supplies of tea products provided by Typhoo Tea Ltd.

Due to coronavirus distancing restrictions, the former night shelter in Whetstone Lane, Birkenhead, which could take up to 15 people overnight, has been converted into five self-contained units with en suite bathrooms and, as YMCA Wirral’s Emergency Night Triage Centre, individuals’ needs and priorities can be assessed.

The Winter Support Appeal donations have been used to equip its rooms with new bedding and towels and have also funded a fitted kitchen area with washing machine, tumble dryer and small electrical appliances.

In previous years, Wirral businesses supported YMCA Wirral by fundraising for new, heavy-duty camp beds for the original 15-space accommodation.

Nigel continued, “Everything changed two years ago when the pandemic hit us hard, coronavirus distancing restrictions meaning we had to completely change our operation to provide self-contained units instead.

“The floor space needed to be completely remodelled and the rooms kitted out – a huge challenge but achieved by huge support from local companies and organisations as we all did our utmost to help those with nowhere to call home.”

The emergency night triage centre operates 365 days a year, providing overnight beds in addition to the 56 bed spaces at its main hostel in Whetstone Lane.

Image: Nigel Hughes in the refurbished kitchen at YMCA Wirral

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