SCORES of rough sleepers are rushing to take up free food and clothing from a Stafford charity - and they say the extent of the town’s homeless problem would leave many shocked.
House of Bread regularly has up to 40 people turning up to get a free hot meal when it opens up on Wednesdays. Many of them are living rough on the streets of Stafford.
The service, which is run and funded entirely by volunteers, uses a room at Trinity Church for the meal.
One man Bob Jenkins, an ex-serviceman who fought in the Falklands, told the Newsletter he had been living on the streets for 14 years and said he was one of many.
“It is tough. I am 55 and sometimes I feel 80,” he said. “I’ve got bits of my body that don’t work any more and it’s all due to living out there on the streets. I know quite a few people who sleep rough around the town and they are in worse shape than me.
“I think people don’t realise the extent of the problem in Stafford.” House of Bread volunteer Will Morris said homelessness was a much bigger problem in Stafford than anyone would believe.
“The fact that we have got on average 40 people coming here each week for a hot meal just goes to show the extent of that.
“Not everyone who comes here is homeless, many are living on the poverty line, but it is a major concern.
“In a small town in middle England like Stafford you wouldn’t expect that this would be a prevalent problem but they are here and they are walking among us. It’s almost as though they are invisible.
“And we envisage that things will only get worse when the reforms to benefits come into place next year.”
Stafford Borough Council spokesman Will Conaghan said: “We are working closely with the House of Bread and other agencies to help those who are homeless.
"Often those sleeping rough require other assistance for problems such as alcohol or drugs, or mental health issues, and we work with specialised agencies to help them.
“But our primary focus is on preventing people from losing their homes.
Last year we prevented more than 340 households from being homeless.”