Homelessness reaches crisis point in Milton Keynes
Charity appeals for help as it deals with 100 people PER WEEK
Milton Keynes is in the grip of a summer crisis of homelessness following the Covid pandemic, it has been revealed today.
The city's Winter Night Shelter charity (WNSMK ) says it is experiencing its busiest time ever helping people in desperate need.
People are currently living in the woods, in derelict warehouses, in tents, on the floor of other people’s rooms or sofas, while others are fleeing abusive partners or even in hiding from people traffickers, said the charity.
Normally this is the quietest time of year for the shelter. But instead it is dealing with more than 100 people a week in need of their help.
As a result it is launching a special summer appeal for donations and cash to help the "unprecedented and unmet need."
It is believed the impact of the Covid pandemic is to blame and the plight of homeless people is starting to become apparent now that many of the protective measures have been lifted.
During lockdown, MK Council housed many rough sleepers in hotel rooms but they are not in a position to continue to do this now.
The ban on evictions was also lifted at the end of May, causing further problems for people unable to pay their rent. And the winding down of the furlough scheme may be contributing to an increase in redundancies, say WNSMK experts.
The charity is already operating at full capacity from its day centre at Unity Park Station (the old bus station), where it provides welfare consultations, meals and practical help to homeless and vulnerable people.
"We have never had to do at this scale before," said a spokesman. "We have retained staff and volunteers to keep things running right through to the summer and into the winter in response to the need we are seeing."
Sara Millington, spokesperson for the shelter, said, “As a charity working at the sharp end of supporting people in crisis we have observed two key things since the start of this year. First, the caseload of our welfare team is rising rapidly, going from 35 people in April, to 60 in May and 71 in June.
"We are now in mid-July and the numbers have already surpassed last month. Second, the situations of people who need our help are much more varied. We have been helping people who are shocked to find themselves in a position of crisis and never expected that they would need help from a charity like ours.”
In addition to providing practical help such as food, haircuts, showers and laundry facilities the WNSMK’s welfare team help people with recovering ID and documents, accessing benefits and bank accounts, registering with a GP and drug/alcohol/mental health support services.
A key focus is on helping people find longer-term accommodation and pathways to employment.
The WNSMK has also been working with the NHS to become a temporary Covid vaccination centre for ‘hard to reach people’, to ensure that as many as people as possible receive their jabs to help keep everyone safe.
"Increasingly now, the biggest need is in the area of mental health, with around 83% of guests requiring support in this area. This may involve help from one of our wellbeing therapists or our addiction counsellor, and we are seeing 40–50 people at each of our twice-weekly Community Club groups designed to combat isolation and loneliness," said the spokesman,
"We can also signpost people to one of the partner organisations who run specialist sessions out of Unity Park Station."
Sara Millington said: “We have now been operating for 11 years, and have never experienced anything like the challenges we have been faced with due to the pandemic.
"Unfortunately this increase in need comes off the back of a year when our community fundraising has been decimated and we urge the people of Milton Keynes to get behind us and donate at this time if they are in a
position to do so.
"We do not want to have to scale back or turn anyone away who needs our help.”
Recently the charity has been helping a pregnant lady with mental health struggles who was concerned for
the life of her baby.
She told workers: "I just wanted to message and thank you for everything you have done for me and Liam already. You honestly have no idea how grateful I am. What you’re doing for people like me is amazing and I really hope one day when I am settled with my little family I can give back to you and what you do for others. Thank you from the bottom of my heart”.
For more information about the work of the Winter Night Shelter Milton Keynes or to make a
donation visit www.winternightsheltermk.org .