Why The Big Yellow Bus is needed…
Solving one of society’s problems
Every night, thousands of men and women face the prospect of sleeping rough on the streets throughout the UK.
It’s one of society’s unwanted problems and it’s going to get worse. BBC research published in February 2020, reported that 28,000 people were sleeping rough in the UK.
The Big Yellow Bus Project aims to take rough sleepers off our streets and provide them with safe, warm shelter and an opportunity to get their lives back on track.
The driving force behind the project is Gerry Watkins, an ordinary working bloke with an extraordinary vision, energy and desire to make a difference.
After two decades of fundraising for homeless veterans, Gerry turned his attention to helping rough sleepers on his doorstep in the Cirencester area.
He started fundraising to purchase the bus after reading about a rough sleeper whose tent was set alight behind Cirencester Parish Church in a mindless act in February 2017.
Less than two years later, having raised enough money to buy the bus after staging two music festivals and other events and countless hours refurbishing the vehicle with the help of local tradesmen, a £29,000 transformation was complete.
True to his word, Gerry opened the doors to the Yellow Bus on Christmas Eve 2018 and it’s been giving Cirencester’s rough sleepers a choice every night since.
The hard work goes on. The project is looking to introduce buses to other towns in the region where homelessness is an issue.
Rough sleeping in Cirencester
Informal discussions with Signpost, a Cirencester based charity supporting homelessness, suggested that approximately ten people were sleeping rough in and around the town.
However, this estimate does not include ‘sofa surfers’.
It is also acknowledged that rough sleepers are not always visible. They may sleep out of town in tents travelling in when required.
During the summer months the need for shelter is less urgent with some choosing a lifestyle of sleeping rough and using charities such as Signpost for support with food and drinks.
Signpost also indicates there has been an increasing trend of maturity among those sleeping rough as well as an increase in the ratio of females.
Gerry conceived the project in 2017 and commenced fundraising to purchase the Big Yellow Bus. He remains the driving force behind it.
Gerry is a lorry driver and local music/band promoter living in Fairford. He is a working man with little administrative experience, but considerable energy and focus.
Over the years, he has devoted considerable time and effort into establishing and leading fundraising events for various causes.
Today, the project has gained the support of many highly committed volunteers who help with the practical needs of the charity. In addition, a dedicated group of trustees are establishing the necessary governance requirements of a formally registered charity.