Help for neediest is halted after an assault
8:50am Friday 28th September 2012 in Latest News
A FOOD run that has acted as a lifeline for hundreds of homeless and needy people on the streets of Swindon has been suspended after a volunteer was attacked.
The van driver, working for the Filling Station charity, was assaulted after turning up at the evening service to help give out supplies of food, clothes and hot drinks.
The charity has taken the difficult decision to suspend the twice-weekly soup run, which operates from Carfax Street car park, while it reviews the safety of its staff.
Chairman Angus Macpherson blamed the actions of one individual on September 18 for depriving a wider number of people of much-needed supplies.
He said: “It’s a tough decision to take because there are people in need.
“We have had some of the highest numbers ever at the breakfast club this week, which shows the need is there.
“It’s a sad thing because we are approaching the cold winter months and there are a number of people sleeping rough in car parks and other places. But we can’t tolerate inappropriate behaviour and we won’t put volunteers at risk in any situation.
“At present we are reviewing the risk and we expect to restart next Thursday.”
Mr Macpherson was not present when the attack happened, but said he has prioritised the safety of volunteers at the service, which takes place on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.
“It was a physical assault which left the volunteer very shaken,” he said.
“He has been to the police about it and doesn’t feel confident enough to come back for a while, so we will have to find someone to do it.
“We can’t have that sort of behaviour and expect the service to continue.”
Homeless people who gathered at the spot on Thursday to find the van had not turned up blamed the actions of one individual for cutting off the service for everybody.
One said: “He grabbed the worker and really went for him. The rest of us have this idiot to thank now it’s been cancelled.”
Two experienced street outreach workers, Tony Niester and James Derieg, had attended the service to provide support to the homeless and needy, but were suspended earlier this year amid a row over the running of another charity, Threshold Housing Link.
They were replaced by Threshold with other members of staff.
A police spokesman said a 41-year-old man had been arrested on September 20 in connection with an assault and later released without charge.