Portsmouth’s homeless bus sent to Brighton after project's ‘heartbreaking’ failure

Some of the many volunteers and sponsors alongside the bus when it was launched. Picture: Keith Woodland
Some of the many volunteers and sponsors alongside the bus when it was launched. Picture: Keith Woodland

A BUS that was transformed into a shelter for homeless people in Portsmouth has been sent to Brighton after it was vandalised.

Joanne Vines and Sammy Barcroft worked for eight months to get The Bus Project off the ground. It saw a double-decker Stagecoach bus kitted out with beds, a toilet, kitchen, electricity and items.

Mess was left in the bus. Picture: Joanne and Sammy

Mess was left in the bus. Picture: Joanne and Sammy

The pair handed over operation of the bus to The Robert Dolling Project, based at St Agatha’s Church in Portsmouth, at the end of last year, after many volunteers worked to transform it.

READ MORE: Woman who created Portsmouth homeless bus left saddened at its ’disgusting state’ 

But in August it was returned to Stagecoach in a filthy state, in need of repair and with items missing – leaving Joanne and Sammy, who said those behind The Robert Dolling Project did not look after it, heartbroken.

It has now been sent to Sussex Homeless Support in Brighton. The Robert Dolling Project said after a number of break-ins and ‘a suspected arson attack’ its insurers would not continue to insure the bus.

Picture: Joanne and Sammy

Picture: Joanne and Sammy

Joanne said on the project’s Facebook page: ‘The bus started its new life in Brighton with Jim Deans and his team from Sussex Homeless Support.

‘Sammy and I spent eight months last year, along with all the businesses and organisations in Portsmouth, making the bus into an overnight shelter for the homeless.

‘The bus was destined to operate in Portsmouth, but due to the failure of The Robert Dolling Project which decided to give it up, it was decided that Jim and his team were the ideal candidates. The bus will now serve the purpose it was designed for.

‘A very big thank you to Stagecoach which has repainted the bus, got it running again and stored it for the last 4 months.’

The bus has been redecorated and sent to Brighton for use with Sussex Homeless Support

The bus has been redecorated and sent to Brighton for use with Sussex Homeless Support

After the bus was pictured in a filthy state and was trashed numerous times, those behind the project said it was a struggle to keep the bus safe from vandalism and numerous break-ins.

But they said they did clean the bus numerous times.

Curtains had been ripped down, the fire alarm destroyed, soiled toilet paper left on the floor and more.

But Joanne said: ‘It’s heartbreaking. If it got trashed why didn’t they sort it out and secure it? It was just left.

‘We’re highly delighted it’s gone to a better place to be operated by people who want it to serve the purpose it was meant for.’ 

Sussex Homeless Support already has one bus.

Readers of The News raised £850 for the project which was also supported Portsmouth City Council.

The Fareham Men’s Shed and Gosport Men’s Shed worked to transform the bus. Havant firm Havant firm Genie Acrylics provided the acrylics, prints and signage. 

The Robert Dolling Project wrote on Facebook: ‘The bus has been moved, repaired and is off to a new home in a better location, unfortunately it is not in the city.

‘After a spate of break-ins and an attempted arson attack our insurers would not continue insuring the bus.’

Those involved with the project have been contacted for further comment, including Cllr Steve Pitt, who declined to comment.