I am very grateful to Annemarie Field for drawing attention [Herald, January 27] to the predicament of rough sleepers here in Eastbourne.
Here at The Matthew 25 Mission on Seaside, we are directly involved with street homeless and many of Eastbourne’s other vulnerable people every day of the week. Many of their heart-rending stories make us weep.
Various conflicting figures, and views, on the issue have being publicised recently, and so I thought it might help if I clarified a few points from our own knowledge and direct experience.
Apart from those in Eastbourne’s temporary winter night shelter (which has been full on a number of occasions), we know from our own ‘intelligence’ that there are some 18-25 others sleeping rough around the town at present. So whether we are comfortable with this situation or not, the fact is that the winter night shelter (15 beds maximum) could not possibly accommodate all of the town’s street homeless people. Even on a very conservative count, it could barely offer shelter to half of our current rough sleepers.
And of course, from March 1 onwards Eastbourne’s night shelter will have closed.
Finally, a comment about the town centre. There is no doubt that some of those we see sitting in the doorways have chosen that lifestyle because it is their best if not only means of attracting income (there but for the grace of God, etc ...). However, please also bear in mind that on Friday night, and in the early hours of Saturday morning, a week ago, there were 12 people found sleeping rough in our town centre. Others were to be found at various points along the seafront, and elsewhere.
What to do? Well one suggestion: when you see an apparently homeless person, whether you give them a sandwich, or a cup of coffee, or not, do make sure they know that a warm welcome, hot food, a listening ear, and support, awaits them at The Matthew 25 Mission, next to Christ Church on Seaside, from 8am to 3.30pm every weekday. The Salvation Army offers similar services.
Administrator. The Matthew 25 Mission