Helen Grant MP paid a visit to Maidstone Churches Winter Shelter last week to thank volunteers and to call for action to eradicate rough sleeping in Maidstone and the Weald.
The winter shelter operates across seven venues in Maidstone town centre to provide accommodation, a meal and companionship to fifteen guests per night, over a twelve week period during the cold winter months. The project is supported by 290 volunteers from the local community.
During her visit Helen thanked the volunteers, 'Every year I am inspired by the commitment, dedication and kindness of the volunteers at Maidstone winter shelter. The service they provide is crucial and our community owes them a huge debt of gratitude. The project is always on the lookout for new volunteers, particularly to cover the night time shifts, so if there is anyone who feels able to help out then please do get in touch.'
Helen's visit this year was particularly poignant as it came shortly after the very sad death of Neil Martin, who was a frequent visitor to the day centre. Paying tribute to Mr Martin Helen said,
'The news of Mr Martin's passing is extremely upsetting and our thoughts are very much with those who knew and loved him. I hope that in his memory we can renew our commitment to stamping out rough sleeping here in Maidstone and the Weald and across the country.
I am pleased that Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Housing, has reaffirmed his commitment to eradicating rough sleeping and I am in the process of working with the team at the winter shelter project to develop a funding proposal. I will then approach the Government with the hope of securing some of the £1 billion available to support homelessness reduction projects here in Maidstone and the Weald.'
Andy James, Manager of the Winter Shelter Project said, 'Not only is Helen's visit a genuine boost to the volunteers, it also helps acknowledge to the wider community of Maidstone that the rough-sleeper population is not forgotten.
For the short 3 month period we are open we keep some of our community's most vulnerable people safe, warm and dry, but we can and should do more. To make an effective and lasting impact in transforming the lives and aspirations of the street population in Maidstone we need to be offering hope and a realistic chance of moving off the streets into a lasting home of their own. We look forward to working with Helen to make this a reality'