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Seeing a person laying amongst sleeping bags in a doorway we had to stop and ask, why, where, how? Taking a moment to sit and chat for a while their life story of broken homes and relationships, neglect, abuse, addiction and mental health issues struck a chord with us. Mainstream life can be tough at the best of times, but for those of us who have a history of instability, family trials and even abandonment, it can lead to homelessness. 

Having volunteered on the streets for a number of years and from hearing first-hand the trials of some of the people we met sleeping rough we decided to start The Ark Project. 10 beds on a bus, 2 showers in a van, warm food, clean clothes and professional councillors and mentors – our mission was to set up a safe haven for the homeless and help them through their time on the streets. 

We’ve been running the charity for a year now and while we reach and help more people each day, the issue of homelessness is ever growing and our resources are forced to stretch even further; research has found that Reading has the highest rate of homelessness in the south east with more than 1000 people across the borough living in temporary accommodation or sleeping rough.

While the number of homeless people is on the rise, so is our determination. If we gave shelter to 10 people each week, we’d be providing a warm bed, meal and emotional support to over 500 vulnerable people a year. But, we needed a helping hand and that’s where the M&S Energy Community Energy Fund stepped in. 

Following a six-week long campaign calling on the local community to show its support for our project we won a £7,740 share of the fund with over 2000 public votes. The money we have won will help us install solar panels on the roof of the bus which will help us power the facilities on board, including keeping the lights on and kettle boiling during the cold winter nights. 

The project has the added bonus of being both eco-friendly and incurring no energy costs for us, meaning we can provide the service for years to come. 

We’re delighted to have won a share of the M&S Energy Community Energy Fund and can’t wait to help even more people experiencing homelessness, all thanks to M&S!