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A Homeless Refuge Bus Has Been Seized by Police in Windsor

A double-decker bus that was renovated to provide a refuge for people sleeping rough has reportedly been impounded by police in Windsor, a charity boss has said. 

The 10-bed bus, run by the Ark Project, was taken to Windsor from its usual home in Reading because of “the kerfuffle around them” in the run-up to the royal wedding, according to charity founder Michael Longsmith.

But it was reportedly seized by police on Thursday afternoon.

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“There were nine people on board at the time it was seized,” Longsmith said. “They’ve just been kicked out back on to the streets. There is nowhere for them. No provisions set up for them in Windsor. Now we are trying to rally around to find tents for them.” 

He further claimed that the bus was parked on private land will full permission, according to the Guardian

“They towed it away to be inspected and categorised and it’s not going to be given back until after the wedding,” he said. 

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Police said they towed the bus because it was a public service vehicle, and there was a problem with the licence of the driver. 

“It was being driven otherwise than in accordance with a licence, a man was reported for the offence, and the vehicle was removed,” said Inspector Gavin Biggs. 

“Once the investigation has been completed, we will be happy to release the vehicle, as long as the correct documentation is in place,” he said. “Officers will execute their duty compassionately and discreetly where appropriate. This is what Thames Valley police tried to do on this occasion.” 

A second homelessness charity in Windsor, the Windsor Homeless Project, is using a range of royal wedding merchandise to raise money for the town’s homeless community. 

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The ‘For Richer For Poorer’ collection ranges from a £10 fridge magnet to a £5,000 commemorative plate — enough to fund a full moving-in set, according to the project website.

The media spotlight is very much on the issue of homelessness in Windsor, following a local official’s controversial open letter four months ago calling for police to remove homeless people before the wedding. 

Some reports claim homeless people are being moved from the streets, while others say homeless people are having their possessions seized by the police. 

The Windsor Homeless Project released a statement on Wednesday describing it as “ridiculous non-reporting.” 

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“I can tell you that last week all of those that are having to bed down in doorways were approached and asked if they would like their belongings to be stored in a safe place over the wedding period as EVERYBODY will be bag searched as the security rises and it will become an annoyance at the very least,” the charity said in a statement on Facebook. 

“The majority (all bar one) agreed that their stuff would be better in storage,” it said. “Absolutely NOBODY has been told that they cannot carry their belongings with them, all that has been said is that ANYTHING that is left in the street ie. bags etc, may by taken away by out-of-area police that do not know which item belongs to whom.

“In the same way as if you or I left a bag unattended in front of a shop, it would be checked for safety and discarded in such a high security situation,” the statement continued. “We and [Thames Valley Police] work very closely and extremely hard to ensure the homeless contingent of Windsor are as safe as they can be and misreporting does absolutely nobody any favours.” 

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Homelessness in Windsor has served to bring greater awareness to the issue across the nation as a whole. The population of rough sleepers in the town is about 10 to 15 people at any one time but, as Murphy James from the Windsor Homeless Project said, "If we have one person live-in on the streets then it’s a problem and it needs sorting."

Global Citizen campaigns to achieve the UN’s Global Goals, which include action on creating sustainable cities and communities and providing access to adequate, safe, and affordable housing for everyone. You can join us by taking action on this issue here