New operator needed for homeless bus in Portsmouth left in ‘disgusting state’

THE operators of a homeless shelter on a double-decker bus have handed it back to Stagecoach.

The Portsmouth-based project, which launched last November to give rough sleepers somewhere to stay overnight and wash, is now in need of a new organisation to take on its running.

Joanne Vines and Sammy Barcroft came up with the idea for the bus, donated by Stagecoach, and spent months converting it thanks to donations and help from businesses across the area.

They said they were left saddened after it was handed back to the bus company in a ‘disgusting state’.

The Robert Dolling Project, based out of St Agatha’s Church in the city centre, were in charge of the bus and said they have been looking for someone else to take it on over the past few weeks.

They strongly denied leaving the bus in the state it was found.

On a Facebook post, Joanne and Sammy wrote: ‘The bus has been delivered back to Stagecoach filthy, vandalised and in a very very poor state.

‘Not even a clean-up attempt by its owners - the Robert Dolling Project.

‘Stagecoach are repairing the bus for free. But will not go onboard until it is cleaned.’

The post said a number of items were missing from the bus including a kettle and microwave and the curtains had been ripped down, a fire alarm wrecked and soiled toilet paper was on the floor.

It added: ‘We are disgusted in the state the bus has been delivered back to Stagecoach and it is heartbreaking to see it after all the time, money and effort from the community that has gone in to it.

‘We are hoping that there will be new owners of the bus soon and we will keep you updated.’

But a reply post from the Robert Dolling Project said they offered to clean the bus but were told they did not have to. They also said they had struggled to keep the bus safe from vandalism and numerous break-ins.

Their Facebook post said: ‘Sammy and Joanne have been regularly and fully briefed regarding the physical state of the bus and the problems associated with it, including break-ins.

‘The bus has been cleaned on a number of occasions since the major clean-up following the first break-in. However, despite attempts to make it secure, people continued to gain access and cause mess and damage.

‘We asked for time to do a clean-up before the bus was removed but Stagecoach were absolutely clear that was not necessary. We would never consider passing the bus to a future operator without making sure that it is clean and equipped with the appropriate items.’