Bus company donates double decker to be turned into Ipswich homeless shelter

Gareth with the bus donated by Stephensons of Essex.

Gareth with the bus donated by Stephensons of Essex.

“It’s unbelievable how a whole community can come together to get something moving.”

Gareth with the bus donated by Stephensons of Essex.

Gareth with the bus donated by Stephensons of Essex.

Those were the words of Gareth Brenland, of Holbrook, as he reflected on what has been achieved in the month since he announced his plans to buy a bus and covert it into a night shelter for rough sleepers in Ipswich.

Today Mr Brenland travelled to Haverhill to collect an out-of-service double decker that was donated by Stephensons of Essex.

The company had put the bus up for auction on eBay, and it caught Mr Brenland’s eye.

The 40-year-old made contact to ask if he could buy the vehicle at the minimum price.

Gareth Brenland with Mark Sayer of Stephensons of Essex.

Gareth Brenland with Mark Sayer of Stephensons of Essex.

After hearing Mr Brenland’s vision for the bus, the firm offered it to him free of charge.

“I was speechless, I didn’t know what to say,” Mr Brenland said.

“I was hoping they would give it to me but when it actually happens you go all numb. It’s quite overwhelming to say the least.”

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All the money donated by members of the public through Mr Brenland’s online appeal - which currently sits at more than £3,000 - will now be spent on turning the bus into a functioning shelter.

Gareth hopes to have the bus ready for residents by the end of March.

Gareth hopes to have the bus ready for residents by the end of March.

Electrician Mr Brenland was further struck by the generosity of strangers when the owner of Maytrees bed and breakfast in Woolverstone offered him her land to park the bus on for the conversion work.

Next month Mr Brenland will open a charity shop in Upper Orwell Street, Ipswich, that will sell the bags of clothes that he has received from kind-hearted supporters since launching the project.

Just yesterday one man dropped off a donation of eight bags full of clothing to Mr Brenland.

He said: “We’ve got enough to fill the old British Home Store (BHS) shop, but we can’t afford it.”

The new shelter will be called Tiffers.

The new shelter will be called Tiffers.

Money made at the shop will be used on the day-to-day running of the bus hostel, and Mr Brenland said the store would double up as a drop-in centre for homeless people one day a week to get a change of clothes.

If all goes to plan, the bus will be up and running at the end of March, ready for when the Ipswich Winter Night Shelter closes.

Mr Brenland, who has embarked on the venture with wife Sarah Jane and daughter Tiffany, said he never expected to receive such a warm response from the public.

“It really has been more than overwhelming,” he added. “I don’t think there’s a word to describe it.

“It’s unbelievable how a whole community can come together to get something moving.”

As well as donations of money and clothing, “plenty” of volunteers have approached Mr Brenland to give their help with the project.

The bus will be named Tiffers in tribute to Mr Brenland’s 15-year-old daughter.

To see the online fundraising page, click here.