Home­less given free emer­gency bus travel

Birmingham Post - - NEWS - Neil Elkes Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Cor­re­spon­dent

ROUGH sleep­ers can get free emer­gency bus travel to help them find a bed for the night under a new scheme.

Bus com­pany Na­tional Ex­press West Mid­lands has do­nated emer­gency bus tick­ets to help the city’s home­less get about.

They will be is­sued as scratch­card day passes to be handed out by front­line work­ers from coun­cils and char­i­ties across the West Mid­lands.

They can be used by rough sleep­ers to find a hos­tel bed for the night, travel to ben­e­fits meet­ing or med­i­cal ap­point­ment. Staff who make an ap­point­ment for a rough sleeper can is­sue the pass to help them get there.

The mea­sure has been de­vel­oped by the bus com­pany working with West Mid­lands Mayor Andy Street’s Home­less­ness Task Force.

Last month, Na­tional Ex­press do­nated a re­dun­dant dou­bledecker bus to the Birm­ing­ham Ro­tary Club to be con­verted into a mo­bile emer­gency shel­ter for up to nine rough sleep­ers at a time.

Tom Sta­bles, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Na­tional Ex­press West Mid­lands, said: “Na­tional Ex­press has its head­quar­ters in the heart of Dig­beth, so we all un­der­stand how im­por­tant it is to tackle home­less­ness.

“One bus ticket can get a rough sleeper to a place where they can get help. That could make all the dif­fer­ence in a cri­sis sit­u­a­tion.”

Mayor Street added: “Home­less­ness and rough sleeping is a com­plex is­sue. It re­quires a team ap­proach through the Home­less­ness Task Force to be­gin to get it under control.

“How­ever, one sim­ple step we are of­ten told we could take, and which we know would have a big im­pact, is if we pro­vided a way for peo­ple to travel to where they are get­ting sup­port.

“Whether this is get­ting med­i­cal help, get­ting to an ap­point- ment for emer­gency hous­ing or hos­tel ac­com­mo­da­tion, the chances are that travel will be in­volved and it’s not fair that fur­ther cost is put on peo­ple who are at their most vul­ner­a­ble. We’re grate­ful to Na­tional Ex­press for do­nat­ing these passes which will be re­ally in­valu­able to peo­ple who need them the most and hope­fully con­tinue with the progress we are mak­ing in tack­ling rough sleeping here in the West Mid­lands.”

The scheme will be run as a pi­lot at first. Na­tional Ex­press West Mid­lands will be working with St Basil’s and the Home­less­ness Task Force to mon­i­tor its use­ful­ness and ef­fec­tive­ness.

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Na­tional Ex­press West Mid­lands has do­nated bus tick­ets to help the home­less get about in emer­gency

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