01:45PM, Tuesday 24 May 2016
After days of campaigning outside the town hall, the members of homeless protest group Born SL6 packed up their belongings and tents into trolleys and trudged away from the Royal Borough’s offices.
They had just been evicted by court order on Monday, April 18 and Jason Verdaguer, one of the key organisers, looked dejected.
The usually charismatic and optimistic middle-aged man, invigorated over the previous weeks by the public’s reception to the campaign and the attention it received in the press, now looked subdued. Not beaten, still determined, but clearly disappointed.
It had not been a campaign handled well by the Royal Borough.
It was a good surprise, then, when newly elected leader of the council Simon Dudley announced his intention to appear at the Brett Foundation’s Sleep Out on Friday, May 13, at the Salvation Army building at East Road – the same day Jason told the Advertiser he had been attacked during the previous night.
More than 20 people attended the event, which saw a speech from homeless man Tim Clarke, 21, and Sue Brett, founder of the foundation, who later announced that she had secured accommodation for Tim.
I went along to the event, which would see attendees sleep rough in the car park outside.
Sue told me that fundraisers running alongside the event raised £6,000 for the foundation and said: “It went better than I thought it was going to.
“More people than I thought would turn up.”
Cllr Dudley said he would look at securing a grant for the foundation and Sue said: “I’m still in shock.”
Cllr Dudley, who slept outside and stayed until morning, said: “We want to empower the voluntary sector to continue the great work that they do.
“We have a huge spate of houses in the borough, some of which are empty. We should be looking at trying to provide some halfway houses.”
People at the sleep out split themselves into teams to guess the answers to questions about national homeless statistics.
The event was also attended by Radio 1 presenter and Maidenhead resident Chris Stark, who had helped promote it on his Twitter page.
He said: “We just need to offer somewhere better to sleep than a park.”
Chris said the issue was close to his heart after he helped a homeless man get a job by asking his Twitter followers if they could offer him some work.
Though temperatures did not dip too far down during the night, hovering around seven degrees, the occasional gust of wind did pack a chill.
Those hardy enough to sleep out used tape to stick pieces of cardboard together to try and create a crude mattress under their sleeping bags.
But certainly, those attending were in high spirits, including Cllr Dudley.
It’s early days still, but it will be interesting to see if he lives up to his words – which were a far cry from the de
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