Becoming a dad helps Ashley to get off streets and into work
This time last year Ashley Bramwell was sleeping rough on the streets while his girlfriend was expecting their first child.
Forced to live in a tent after falling behind with rent and with his partner under threat of losing her own place to live, life was bleaker than ever for the 26-year-old.
But thanks to the Wintercomfort homeless charity, Ashley and partner Stephanie are both in regular jobs, have moved into new rented accommodation with their 11-month baby son Oscar and are looking forward to life off the streets.
Mr Bramwell, whose plight was highlighted by the Cambridge Independent’s Wintercomfort appeal which raised £14,000 last winter, said: “We’ve got a little boy now called Oscar who is 11 months old and we are living in our own place.
“Oscar is doing really well. He is crawling now and his arrival has really changed my life. I feel really good and I’m working full time delivering stuff and doing stock control in the afternoons.
“Oscar’s arrival has calmed me down and I work from 6am until about 3pm and that means I can spend the rest of the day with my girlfriend and Oscar.
“I still have a bit to do with the Wintercomfort guys. I used to run a football team there but not any more.
“My girlfriend sees her support worker there. She helps us out with things if they get on top of us.
“We went into a few hostels before we got housed. We felt like we were going a bit mad at one point, to be honest, but we got there in the end.
“We always try and do our best and that’s all you can do, and it has worked out for us compared to where we were a year ago.”
The latest Wintercomfort appeal is in full flow and comes at a time when a record number of people are turning to the charity for help.
Last year it supported a record 763 men and women, a nine per cent rise on the previous year, and this figure is set to continue to escalate with many more vulnerable people needing their support.
Their work continues all year round and they need £750,000 for running costs alone.
Simon Pickering, the charity’s fundraising and communication coordinator, said: “Our greatest satisfaction is seeing the difference we have made to someone’s life.”
A donation of £14 will buy a cooked breakfast for a rough sleeper for a week, £40 will pay for laundry powder for a month while £100 will provide professional job skills training for a day.
Wintercomfort was set up by Henry Rothschild along with a number of locally-based people.
They were made increasingly aware of the growing problems of homelessness within Cambridge.
In 1990, Wintercomfort was distributing food, blankets and sleeping bags from an old bus known as the ‘blue bus’.
In 1991, the volunteers opened a temporary winter night shelter in local churches, which also provided showers, laundry facilities and cooked breakfasts for the homeless community.
Three years later, Wintercomfort acquired its own premises at Overstream House which has been its permanent home ever since.