Maidenhead homelessness charity braced for increase in service users

MAIDENHEAD 133766-5

Sue Brett

A Maidenhead charity which supports the homeless and people living in poverty says that it has seen an increase in families accessing its services as the country emerges from lockdown.

Sue Brett, founder of The Brett Foundation, added that the number of people on the streets is rising once more after a period during the pandemic when homeless people were provided with accommodation.

Speaking to the Advertiser, Sue said that the charity’s King Street centre is not yet fully open but it is operational three days a week for half an hour, where meals and drinks are handed out to those in need.

It has also viewed a property in the Nicholsons Centre next door to New York Deli and is in discussions over whether this would be a suitable location for the charity to expand its offering.

However, The Brett Foundation’s bus, which was used to house those sleeping rough and offer supplies, has been sold due to less people making use of it during the pandemic, and expensive repairs needed on the ageing vehicle.

“The trouble with vehicles like that is they have to be used every day, or they start to deteriorate,” Sue said.

“When COVID hit all the homeless were put in accommodation, so the bus was not needed at that time. And as we weren’t taking it out, things started going wrong with it.”

Despite this, Sue is looking forward to continuing the charity’s work in supporting the homeless for the long-term, such as helping them pay rent arrears, and working with agencies to secure housing and benefits.

It is also looking to offer an employment service for long-term users to enable them to access paid-work and get back on their feet.

Sue added that the aim would be to buy a unit on a business park where all activities could be carried out at one location.

“That is something that we would be looking to do, it would be really nice to have a warehouse where we could do everything,” Sue said.

“We are also looking to organise events to raise funds, and are hoping to have a big sleep-out soon.”

Demand is also starting to grow amongst families, Sue said, who are ‘really struggling’ and are coming to The Brett Foundation first for help with paying bills and other jobs.

“During the pandemic we had an awful lot of families and the numbers have just increased,” Sue said, adding that the likely cause of this was due to the financial fallout from COVID.

The charity is now looking forward and Sue said that it is doing ‘okay’, despite money being slightly tight.

“”Through COVID everybody was asking for funds to keep themselves going, and donations did drop off,” she said. “We are doing okay.”

The Royal Borough council has publicised its work in supporting the homeless through initiatives such as contactless payment points, and said back in July that there were no longer any rough sleepers from the borough on the streets

When asked whether authorities were doing enough to support the homeless after COVID, Sue acknowledged ‘they are still trying to keep people off the streets’, adding those sleeping rough are a ‘hard demographic’ due to many variables in their circumstances.

Cllr Ross McWilliams (Con, Cox Green), the council's lead member for housing, has announced that he will be contacting Sue to ask for more details about any individuals sleeping rough.

"Recently, RBWM’s head of housing reported that no RBWM residents were sleeping rough, which was a major achievement," he added. 

"This number will always flex depending on situations but by having a smaller overall number of rough sleepers it means we can help those 'new' rough sleepers sooner.

"The quicker we link these individuals up with RBWM’s support services, which includes providing accommodation, the sooner we can get them off the streets."

Visit www.thebrettfoundation.org for more information on The Brett Foundation. 

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