Founder of ‘The Big Yellow Bus Project’, Gerry Watkins, launched his new fundraising shop in The Woolmarket, Cirencester from Saturday 19th October.
Gerry founded The Big Yellow Bus Project in 2018 to provide rough sleepers with free overnight accommodation as an alternative to sleeping on the streets. The bus provides hot meals and drinks as well as somewhere safe and welcoming to stay.
The new fundraising shop is to both raise funds for the ongoing running of the bus, but also to provide clothing for under £5 for those on low incomes as well as the homeless.
The Countess Bathurst said: ‘Having seen how tirelessly Gerry has worked on The Big Yellow Bus Project over the last few years, it’s wonderful to see the opening of this fantastic space which I know will become a massively vital part of the project.
The Big Yellow Bus has proved to be an incredibly positive influence in Cirencester, and we have all taken it to our hearts.
It is a privilege to be invited by Gerry to officially cut the ribbon and I believe with Gerry’s passion, energy and enthusiasm, as well as the support from so many of the kind people who live here, it will be a huge success.’
Informal discussions with Signpost, a Cirencester based charity supporting homelessness suggested they estimate that at the time of writing (January 2019) approximately 10 people were sleeping rough in and around Cirencester however this does not include “sofa surfers”.
It is also acknowledged that rough sleepers are not always visible as they may sleep out of town in tents, travelling into town when they require. During the summer months the need for shelter is less urgent with some choosing the lifestyle of sleeping rough and using charities such as Signpost for support with food and drinks.
Signpost also indicate there has been a trend to an increasing level of maturity amongst those sleeping rough as well as an increase in the ratio of females.
Gerry conceived the project in 2017 and commenced fund raising to purchase the Big Yellow Bus and he remains the driving force behind it.
Gerry is a lorry driver and local music/band promoter living in Fairford. He is a working man with little administrative experience but over the years has devoted considerable energy and drive into establishing and leading fund raising events for various causes.
As time passes, the Project has gained the support of many highly committed volunteers who help with the practical needs as well as a group of volunteers who are building the necessary governance arrangements and preparing to move from a not for profit project to a formal charity.