Tragedy of homeless death toll

A CONCERTED effort is being made to end the trail of despair that has seen three homeless people die on the streets of Totnes this year.
MP Sarah Wollaston described the toll as a great tragedy and a senior South Hams councillor called the deaths ‘very sad’ – but with the worst of the winter still ahead, there are thought to be up to 17 people sleeping rough in the town each night.
Now, a crisis meeting has been held at Follaton House, Totnes, to see what extra help can be given to the homeless.

Dr Wollaston said: ‘Totnes is a very generous town and I am proud to represent a community that will not ignore those in need.
‘However, for people’s kindness to be most effective it would be a great help if donations could go directly to those helping the homeless to turn their lives around.
‘I truly believe that the best way to achieve these aims is not to give to the person on the street. It has been the case, that in the past, this has indirectly contributed to individuals not wanting to take up accommodation offered in neighbouring communities,’ she said on her website.
‘I would ask instead that you direct your generosity towards the Revival Life Ministries who do everything they can to help the homeless in Totnes.
‘Revival Life Minis-tries is based on the Industrial Estate at 15-20 Burke Road, Tot-nes,TQ9 5XL or if you are unable to visit their headquarters, donations for the homeless can be dropped into my constituency office at Station Road, Totnes, TQ9 5HW and I will ensure they are passed directly to Revival Life Ministries.
‘Our homeless community need our und-erstanding and support and that includes provision of services to help
in the right place, not located many miles away in Newton Abbot.
‘I will be doing what I can over the coming months to campaign for a drug and alcohol outreach team in town and I’m interested to hear from anyone who uses the service and would like to comment on their own experience.’
South Hams Coun-cillor Hilary Bastone said: ‘Where we are aware that someone is living on the streets, South Hams Council will offer advice and assistance and, where appropriate, accommodation.
‘It is very sad to hear of the recent death of rough sleepers who had been offered advice and assistance and alternative accommodation was also offered to those who were actually living on the streets.
He told a meeting of the council’s community life and housing scrutiny panel: ‘Unfor-tunately accommodation is not always available in the town or area they wish to live in, and they will, on occasions, refuse the accommodation.
‘South Hams is committed to the No Second Night Out model, which aims to ensure that no-one will have the need to sleep rough.
‘When the local authority is made aware of someone rough sleeping, we will try to contact them and invite them to see a member of our hous-ing options team.
They will explore options for alternative accommodation and support which can be provided.
‘In cases of severe weather the local auth-ority has an emergency protocol which seeks to ensure accommodation is available to those who are on the streets.
‘A meeting was recently held with the local authority, representatives of the Shekinah Mission, Pastor Mark Hatch of Revival Life Ministries, Totnes Town Cllr Alan Gorman and MP Sarah Wollaston.
‘The meeting explo-red the circumstances around the unfortunate deaths of this year and sought to identify additional solutions.’
It was agreed at the meeting that a representative of the council will attend the drop in centre on most weeks to provide housing advice for rough sleepers, Cllr Bastone said.
‘When the drop in centre had to leave its previous premises in Station Road, Totnes, as the property was being sold, and this valuable service was at risk of closure and being lost to the town, South Hams provided a temporary home at no rent in a vacant unit in the Burke Road industrial estate at Totnes,’ Cllr Bastone said.
A street funeral is being held tomorrow for Michael Gething, the latest homeless man to die in the open air.
Friends and traders have organised the tribute and costs are being partially met by the Green Funeral Comp-any and former town councillor John Maca-die who owns the Red Wizard café in Totnes.
Police inspector Andy Tomlinson said on Monday that he disputed the figures, insisting that apart from Michael Gething, only one death had been reported – a man in a caravan.

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