City's homeless bus vandalised and used as toilet

ORGANISERS behind Portsmouth's homeless bus project are '˜outraged' after it was trashed and used as a toilet.

Saturday, 14th April 2018, 7:00 am
Alistair Thompson inside the vandalised homeless bus

Last year the Robert Dolling Project launched a 12-bed homeless shelter on board a converted double decker Stagecoach bus at St Agathas Church in Landport with the goal to provide a permanent place for rough sleepers to stay the night.

But team members of the project were left distraught after being told the bus had been vandalised.

Co-ordinator of the Robert Dolling Project Alistair Thompson said: ‘We are outraged at what these people have done and it is utterly despicable.

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Alistair Thompson inside the vandalised homeless bus

‘The bus is trashed, items have been stolen and someone has used our bus as a toilet.’

The bus, which Alistair and his team believed was broken into between Wednesday morning and Thursday evening, is likely to be shut for up to two weeks while it undergoes a deep clean.

Alistair said: ‘It is such a shame that we have to close the bus thanks to a few people ruining what the community has worked so hard to achieve with this project.’

Groups including the Gosport Men’s Shed helped fix the interior of the bus, fitting cupboards and doing general DIY jobs.

Alistair Thompson inside the vandalised homeless bus

Wilf Pickles, from Gosport Men’s Shed ,said: ‘It is very disappointing and I really feel for all the people who use the bus especially the ex-servicemen.

‘So many people worked so hard for this project and it is quite distressing that someone would destroy that. It is a mindless thing for someone to do.’

Highbury College students built and fitted the 12 bunk beds on the upper-deck while VIVID Housing donated and fitted the kitchen.

Commercial director at VIVID Housing Mark Batchelor said: ‘We’ve just been informed about the vandalism of the bus and are disappointed to hear the news.

‘We’re very proud to have been part of this project that supports local homeless people, and it’s a cause that we continue to support.

‘We hope the damage isn’t too significant.’

The News also backed the scheme which began in March 2017 and ran a Running for the Bus fundraiser last spring.

Alistair added: ‘With our caretaker Russell here it was clean, tidy, the floor was mopped and there wouldn’t be dishes in the sink – but everything has been trashed now.’

Alistair said the vandal broke in through the main door by pushing a chain that was holding it closed before unleashing the destruction on the bus.

‘Russell wasn’t on board at the time. He’s been living here since it was set up and has been doing a brilliant job looking after it.

‘We haven’t heard from Russell yet but we’re sure he will be devastated when he finds out what’s happened. He put his heart and soul into this and made such a difference, especially by arranging to have the site cleaned of needles.’

Alistair said they were now looking for a new caretaker.

He added that most of the people living in the bus had problems but fully appreciated the shelter.

‘Most of the homeless have other issues – it’s not just being homeless, that’s just a symptom of the problem,’ he said.

Police are currently investigating the vandalism.

Alistair added that he was at a loss to explain why someone would do such a thing.

‘I really can’t explain it. It’s a project to help the homeless – some of the most vulnerable people in our community – and now it is trashed.’