Donations needed to fund £78k outreach bus for Ipswich to help homeless, vulnerable and intoxicated

Ian Walters. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Ian Walters. Picture: GREGG BROWN - Credit: Gregg Brown

The man who has run Ipswich Soup Kitchen for 25 years is set to widen his support for the town’s homeless and needy in the shape of an outreach bus.

Mr Walters says he enjoys helping people who are down on their luck. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Mr Walters says he enjoys helping people who are down on their luck. Picture: GREGG BROWN - Credit: Gregg Brown

Ian Walters, 59, wants the vehicle to double-up as an SOS station on a Friday and Saturday night for drinkers to get help in order to ease pressure on the emergency services.

With plans in the making for the past five years, Mr Walters has now set up a charity for the project and needs to raise £78,000 to finally bring the idea to life.

The soup kitchen operates seven evenings week in Elm Street and Mr Walters said demand was rapidly rising. Back in 1992 it would feed around six people a night, but now it is between 25 and 40.

Mr Walters, who is a carer for his wife, said: “We have got quite a high number of homeless. I would say it’s the way the climate is at the minute in the country. There’s more people living on the breadline.

“We see the homeless but we see a lot of other people as well: people with mental health issues, people with addiction, people who are just down on their luck and people who have been sanctioned and haven’t got money to afford food. We need to be doing something about it.

“The people who don’t have drink or drug or homeless problems don’t come under anyone’s radar, so I want to get experts on the bus to help those people before something happens to them.”

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The lower floor of the bus will consist of kitchen, seating and bathroom facilities; while the upper deck will have space for other agencies within the Ipswich Locality Homelessness Partnership to work with those in need and find long-term resolutions to their problems.

Two nights a week it will be used at the soup kitchen. Ipswich Town Pastors will also be able to take advantage of the facilities when it operates as an SOS bus to take drinkers who have overindulged to sober up or get medical attention from an on-board paramedic.

The East of England Ambulance Service has raised £1,000 towards the cause through a charity football match with Ipswich’s A&E staff.

Mr Walters has worked with vulnerable people and rough sleepers in Ipswich since 1992 when the soup kitchen launched.

He said: “When I started I just loved it and the people who you meet on the streets and their plights. I soon realised it was a life I wanted to lead - looking after those less fortunate than ourselves.”

Supporters have already helped to raise £13,000 towards the project, but there is still a long way to go. To donate, see here.