ACCORDING to government figures, Worcester has one of the highest numbers of rough sleepers in the country, outside of London, and the powers that be are going all out to combat the problem.

To raise awareness and drum up support, the city council recently held its first Homelessness Action Day, ‘Homeless, Not Helpless’, with Worcester Music Festival invited to put on a showcase of local talent to entertain visitors during the free event at the Guildhall.

Reinforcing the message that music can inspire even those who have fallen on hard times, festival favourites Colin Baggs, Paul Jeffery, Kings & Folk and Done By Sunrise were joined by musicians from Worcester YMCA, who all looked to music as a way of finding hope.

Worcester Music Festival chairman Ant Robbins said homelessness was a subject close to the festival committee’s heart. “In 2011, our charity of the year was the city’s Maggs Day Centre and we raised more than £7,000 for the Deansway lifeline that year, enabling them to stay open an extra day during the winter months, which was looking unlikely at the time.

“It wasn’t just about donating money, the festival team learnt a great deal about what it means to be homeless and heard people’s stories firsthand. We witnessed the dedication of those who are trying to help, whether this is by finding people places to live or providing a supportive ear. We even went down to Maggs one day and cooked the centre users breakfast, with music to boot.

“We were delighted to be asked to showcase the county’s wonderful local talent at the first Homelessness Action Day in January, with all our performers on the day doing us proud.”

Homeless, Not Helpless saw representatives from local organisations giving advice on volunteer opportunities and other ways to support their work. These included St Paul’s, Worcester YMCA, Maggs Day Centre, South Worcestershire Nightstop, Worcester Citizens Advice Bureau and Worcester Housing and Benefits Advice Centre. Worcester Community Housing also attended.

The council aims to have no one spend more than one night sleeping rough in the city by the end of 2013, with Maggs Day Centre the Mayor of Worcester’s official charity of the year.

Find out more about homelessness in Worcester at http://www.worcesternews.co.uk/news/10226312.34_people_living_rough_in_our_city/

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