Effort to help the homeless

Tommy Duffy

Tommy Duffy - Credit: Archant

The community is pulling together to ensure the tragic circumstances surrounding the death of a homeless man are not repeated.

Tommy Duffy, 51, spent his last hours in sub-zero conditions on a Port Royal bench before his body was found on January 20.

Around 70 people, some who had only passed the Irishman in the street, attended a memorial service at the Unitarian Church to honour him – and group organiser Ann Worthington hopes many of them have been inspired to act.

“We have been challenged by Tommy’s death to take action to avoid similar tragedies in Sidmouth,” she said.

“In the current economic climate, safe, secure and affordable accommodation is hard to secure. Support services to the most vulnerable in society are also under-resourced.

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“Communities such as ours are being challenged with the reality of homeless people sleeping on our streets.

“What is clear is that Sidmouth should be proud of the wealth of services already being provided in the town, however, we need to ensure that we communicate, support and signpost people effectively.”

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Ann has already brought together the Sid Valley Food Bank, the town’s policing team, a local homeless man, East Devon District Council and other social care groups to discuss what can be done.

They are planning an information meeting to provide an insight into homelessness, the varied reasons for it, and how Sidmouth can respond to it.

Tommy’s friend, Robert Crick, said: “I am sure that when a public meeting is called there will be a lot of interest, as the death of Tommy Duffy did shake a lot of residents in the town who are anxious to find practical ways of addressing the issues of homelessness and addiction.”

Robert thinks the group will make a difference and there are already several creative solutions in the pipeline.

Sid Valley Food Bank manager, Lois Swarbrick, added: “People like Tommy come to the area because they don’t want to be in the cities if they’re trying to get clean. They feel safe here.”

She is keen to see an emergency package established for the winter months so any new arrivals will not go cold or hungry.

Lois told the Herald that there is one homeless woman currently living in Sidmouth, that she is doing so by choice and has declined the help of the food bank.

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