09:30AM, Thursday 24 November 2016
Maidenhead could become a ‘graveyard for the homeless’ if more is not done to help them during winter, a homelessness campaigner has warned.
Former rough sleeper Jason Verdaguer spoke out on Tuesday, after the second death of a homeless man in a matter of weeks.
Julian Abraham, 62, known as ‘Troggy’ to fellow rough sleepers, died at Wexham Park Hospital in the second week of this month, from what is believed to have been pneumonia.
He usually slept in a stairwell at Hines Meadow car park in Saint Cloud Way.
His death follows that of his friend and fellow rough sleeper ‘Big’ John West, who also often slept at Hines Meadow. He died on October 8, from what was believed to be a chest infection.
Jason, co-founder of the Born SL6 group that demanded housing for the homeless by protesting on Maidenhead Town Hall lawn during the summer, said: “We can’t expect people to live in car parks.”
He said the deaths proved the urgent need for facilities to get rough sleepers off the streets in the winter.
“More people will die this winter in Maidenhead – I guarantee you that,” said Jason.
“It is going to be a graveyard for the homeless. There are two of my mates dead.”
A homeless shelter in Howarth Road, a joint project between the council and the Brett Foundation, which helps people who have fallen on hard times, is not due to open until January 17, next year.
Charity founder Sue Brett, who also knew Mr Abraham, said work could not be completed sooner. She added: “This shelter can’t be built quick enough.
“I actually find it quite heartbreaking. We are that close – we are so close to it being up and running. If only I could put them somewhere, I would sweep them up and put them there.”
A recent count by the Brett Foundation, the Windsor Homeless Project, the Royal Borough and Thames Valley Police found three rough sleepers in Maidenhead, but Sue believes there are more.
Leader of the council Cllr Simon Dudley said the news of the two deaths was ‘tragic’ and that work on the shelter was ‘going as fast as it can go’.
He continued: “I will look into this straight away to see if there is any way we can address this.
“Anything we can do, we will do.”
Paramedics were called to the scene of a medical emergency in Maidenhead on Monday morning (June 27).
A teenager who died after getting into difficulty in the Jubilee River has been described as a ‘gentle giant’ in a tribute from his school.