I gave sleeping bags to Ipswich's homeless...now I want to build them a £100k shelter
Gareth Brenland set up Tiffers The Bus Shelter to help Suffolk's homeless people. Now he tells ANDREW PAPWORTH why he is raising £100,000 for a permanent site.
When Gareth Brenland saw a homeless man, suffering in cold on the streets of Ipswich, he could not help but be moved.
So he started driving round the town and giving out sleeping bags, to try and help them at their time of greatest need.
Unsatisfied, the builder of 20 years then transformed a bus into emergency shelter - giving about 30 people facing hardship somewhere to sleep, shower and begin to turn their lives around.
Now Mr Brenland has launched an ambitious £100,000 fund-raising bid to take his Tiffers The Bus Shelter project to the next level - by creating a permanent new hostel which will not only provide refuge but valuable training to rebuild people's lives.
He says the plan "would help more people" and is the "only way forward", given the obvious limitations of space on the Tiffers bus.
But his is not the only project trying to help Ipswich's homeless - and indeed Mr Brenland has been encouraged to work closely with other charities also tackling the problem.
"It was one guy I came across - he just stuck in my head," said Mr Brenland.
"He was as old as my eldest son. I started driving round in a car, giving out sleeping bags.
"Then I saw an article on a bus, so I had a bus adapted and started to focus on that."
The bus is situated in a lay-by in Freston, just outside of Ipswich - the idea being that homeless people, many of whom also battle addiction problems, are taken out of an environment which might hamper their recovery.
"It works for the people who want it," he said.
"We say to people: 'If you want to change your life, we're prepared to help you through it.'"
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Rather than just give people shelter, Mr Brenland wants to help people transform their lives - so the new centre would give training in trade skills such as electrics, plumbing and woodwork.
A JustGiving page set up for the new appeal said: "We can and want to do more.
"To do this though we need our own site, a piece of land or compound we can call our own and expand on the services we currently offer.
"At the moment we can offer a number of spaces on our Tiffers bus to those that are ready to change and have already started the process and, being in a lay-by, we cannot expand.
"Our own site would enable us to provide training of all sorts and other basic DIY skills.
"Through our founder Gareth and a host of volunteers we have the tools, we just need the space.
"The opportunities and services we could offer from such a site would be such a benefit to not only the homeless, which is our main focus, but to the local communities as a whole, with a range of volunteering opportunities."
Neil MacDonald, Ipswich Borough Council's portfolio holder for housing and health, said: "It's great that Gareth has got this ambition. It's quite an ambitious appeal for £100,000."
Mr MacDonald also said other organisations in Ipswich are working to tackle homelessness - the majority of which are part of the Ipswich Locality Housing Partnership (ILHP).
Tiffers is not formally part of the ILHP, which ensures a consistent approach is taken to supporting rough sleepers.
"We're a little bit different and do things outside of the box," said Mr Brenland, who said he was prepared to work closely with the IHLP and has recently attended one of its meetings.
"I'm not prepared to change the way we do things to suit others, but I'm happy to work with others towards the same results.
"There's a bit of a stigma with the homeless.
"At the moment we're doing as much as we can. I think the only way forward after two years of running the service is going to be to purchase our own plot of land and develop on there."