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Robert Dolling Project
Monday 30th October 2017

Homeless Bus to get home at St Agathas' as the Trust launch the Robert Dolling Project

The homeless Bus is to get its first home at St Agathas', behind the Cascades Shopping Centre as the Trust launch Robert Dolling Project to support the homeless.

The Project, aims to use the converted double decker bus as the first step in a programme to provide help and support to some of Portsmouth's 40 rough sleepers.

The announcement will be made as the completed Bus, a converted route master, donated by Stage Coach goes on display at Fratton Park.

Father Maunder, from St Agathas' commented: "When I heard about this incredible community based project, I knew this church could help by providing a base, because we are close to an existing group of rough sleepers and have the space to accommodate it."

The Bus, the brainchild of Joanne Vines and Sammy Barcroft, is being made available to Portsmouth as Government figures show rough sleeping in England has rocketed. Between 2010-2016 it soared by over 130 per cent from 1,800 to over 4,000 on any given night.

And despite various Government initiatives, official estimates suggest that each year around 34,500 people will sleep rough.

Father Maunder continued: "What has been particularly impressive is the energy and support that Joanne and Sammy have received from local people, organisations and companies. Highbury College made the bunks, Genie Acrylics for all the vinyls and GJC electricals for converting the bus electrics, to name a few.

"This really has been a Team effort, and everyone involved should feel extremely proud of their achievements."

The idea of the Robert Dolling project followed a meeting between Father Maunder, and a group of the Bus's supporters, including Steve Wemyss, Alistair Thompson, Leo Ciccarone and Paul Hartley to see what else should be provided to those rough sleeping here in the City.

Among the top issues the Project has identified is providing access to medical, psychological and addiction services. Rough sleepers are far more likely to have a diagnosed mental health problem, with one study suggesting the figure could be around 44 per nearly twice the rate amongst the general population.

While a survey by a leading homeless charity found four in 10 (41 per cent) have a drug problem and just over a quarter (27 per cent) have, or are recovering from an alcohol problem.

Worryingly people sleeping on the street are also 17 times more likely to have been victims of violence. More than one in three people sleeping rough have been deliberately hit or kicked or experienced some other form of violence, whilst the life expectancy of a homeless person is just 47.

Father Robert Dolling was the priest of St Agatha's between 1885-1895. A great social reformer he frequently challenged authorities to do more to improve the lives of his parishioner's, including the appalling state of their housing, which he described in a book, Ten Years in a Portsmouth Slum, published in 1896.

Father Maunder concluded: "It is important that we engage with all the citizens of Portsmouth so that we can all work together to help some of the most vulnerable people in the city. Over a hundred years ago Robert Dolling shared a common platform with anyone prepared to help feed and shelter those who had been abandoned. We now invite people to do the same".

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