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Search for homeless shows state of Spalding

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Ordinarily, if I was frequenting the streets of Spalding on a Saturday night, I’d be walking to and from my favourite pubs and bars.

However, when given the opportunity to join Community Mind Matters - which provides support to those sleeping rough in the town - I was happy to forgo my glass(es) of wine.

The group, this time made up of Vanessa Browning, Coun Jack McLean and Scott Warren, recently started taking to the streets of the town to ensure that those who are homeless know that they are being looked out for in some way.

Jack McLean, Scott Warren, Vanessa Browning and Kat Wakefield (57657441)
Jack McLean, Scott Warren, Vanessa Browning and Kat Wakefield (57657441)

Vanessa, who set up the group, always ensures she has food, water, sleeping bags and kind words on hand for those who might need them.

“We are doing this because if we don’t, who else will?” Vanessa said as we embarked on our near-10 mile circuit.

“Sometimes, people just want to know that someone is there to listen to them, sometimes they need supplies. They’re often scared at first too.”

Vanessa Browning, Scott Warren and Coun Jack McLean (57695634)
Vanessa Browning, Scott Warren and Coun Jack McLean (57695634)

The group are aware of several homeless people in the town who they have spoken with before, so they have a good idea of where they might be found. We scoured the Castle Sports Complex field twice, both sides of the River Welland from Twin Bridges to High Street, Victoria Street Car Park and the bus station.

However, on this occasion, we didn’t come across anyone we could help, despite seeing signs of spots where people have clearly been sleeping rough.

Instead, what I was struck by was the state in which our town can be found of an evening.

Jack McLean, Vanessa Browning and Scott Warren (57657436)
Jack McLean, Vanessa Browning and Scott Warren (57657436)

It didn’t take long for us to come across our first fly-tip in the form of a sofa on Westlode Street - a spot where had I been brave enough, I might have taken the weight off for a few moments later in the night.

I needn’t have worried as we came across several mattresses, another sofa and even some rather comfy looking bin bags throughout the night. We were never far from fly-tipped items - those cameras SHDC has bought can’t come into action quick enough.

By the time midnight struck, the streets were pitch black. Stumbling down Park Road and St John’s Road felt incredibly dangerous even with the aid of our torches. We did quite literally walk into a couple of people who were on their travels in the darkness and it struck me how frightened I would have been had I been alone and walking home after a few drinks.

Vanessa Browning, Scott Warren and Coun Jack McLean (57695655)
Vanessa Browning, Scott Warren and Coun Jack McLean (57695655)

The lights are undoubtedly switched off far too early, especially on warm evenings when the town’s night life is thriving again. Why would anyone walk home when they can’t see their hand in front of their face?

Walking over Stepping Stone Bridge is never a delight. It smells, there are weeds and overgrowth covering it and it could be lit better by a trail of tealights.

We were rather pleased we were walking with two men on several occasions and this was one of them. We decided against even attempting footbridge between Green Lane and St John’s Road as, like the rest of the area, it was dangerously dark.

However, it was good to see Spalding Railway Station looking well kept and well lit - with the street art of the Hogwarts Express looking even more impressive under the warm light.

Then there were the traffic mishaps. From one car attempting to drive down the one way system on High Street from the wrong direction (thankfully they quickly realised their error), to cars driving through and over the barriers on the ‘closed’ Park Road, (leading us to jump out of harm’s way) there was plenty to see.

All in all, a night on the streets of Spalding wasn’t the best advert for our town and you’d be hard pushed to sugar coat a lot of what we saw.

While our failure to find any rough sleepers was a comfort, I hoped that this meant that they had found a bed for the night and that they were safe. But, naturally, my mind wandered to more troublesome thoughts. If they weren’t in their ‘usual’ spots, where had they gone? Were they actually safe?

I know that the team will continue their efforts to look after the rough sleepers of Spalding and I hope the debate around the safety of our town will continue too.

I think many of us would agree that a lot needs to be changed.

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