A pilot scheme to donate free bus tickets to rough sleepers in the West Midlands has proved so successful that it has been extended.
National Express West Midlands teamed up with Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street’s Homelessness Task Force to provide free bus travel for emergency use.
Rough sleepers can use the scratchcard day passes to get to a hostel bed for the night, to go to a benefits appointment or a job interview, or to get medical help.
Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street with Nathan Slinn, the Salvation Army's regional manager for homelessness services, Martyn Evans, the Salvation Army chaplain from the Harnall Lifehouse outreach service and Ali Bell, head of external communications from National Express West Midlands
When the scheme was launched as a pilot last April, 1,400 tickets were given to frontline agencies who work with West Midlands local authorities to tackle homelessness.
National Express West Midlands has now donated a further 1,000 tickets and will continue the scheme permanently to enable more people to benefit.
The Mayor said: “Whether rough sleepers need medical help or to get to an appointment for emergency housing, hostel accommodation or a job interview, travel is likely to be involved. I believe people should not have to face these extra costs when they are at their most vulnerable.
“We’re very grateful to National Express West Midlands for donating the free bus passes, which are proving a huge success. They are invaluable to the people who need them the most and will help us continue to tackle rough sleeping in the West Midlands.”
David Bradford, managing director of National Express West Midlands, said: “We’ve had really positive feedback on the free travel pass scheme and we’re pleased that we’ve been able to extend it.
“One bus ticket can get a rough sleeper to a place where they can get help – that could make all the difference in a crisis situation.”
The scratchcard tickets go to frontline agencies who work with West Midlands local authorities to tackle homelessness, such as Coventry Salvation Army at Harnall Lifehouse.
Nathan Slinn, regional manager for Salvation Army homelessness services, said: “Having these free bus passes available means our residents can attend hospital appointments, job interviews and work-related training without having to worry about the cash. Often, residents’ budgets are very limited, so having a bus pass removes a barrier and enables independence and peace of mind in knowing they can make an appointment on their own.”
Support workers from the agencies who make a specific appointment for a rough sleeper – such as healthcare or a hostel place – can issue a bus ticket on that day to the homeless person so they can get to their appointment.
National Express West Midlands worked with the Homelessness Task Force to evaluate the scheme.
For more information about the Homelessness Task Force, go to https://www.wmca.org.uk/who-we-are/meet-the-mayor/homelessness-task-force/