Kind-hearted members of the Boston community rallied last week to help a homeless man – and his dogs – find shelter from sub-zero conditions.
A team effort between the residents and businesses saw Jeremy Smith, 46, and his beloved pets Cassie and Bailey, put up at a hotel in the town as the cold snap continued to bite
The goodwill drive also saw enough funds raised to provide him with new clothing, plus accommodation beyond his hotel stay to help him get back on his feet.
It all began when Karen Crozier, 47, of Boston, saw Jeremy preparing to sleep rough with his dogs in the doorway of Marks & Spencer, in Market Place, on Wednesday evening, wrapping himself up in supermarket carrier bags. Boston’s emergency night shelter at the Centenary Methodist Church was unfortunately unavailable, having been closed due to health and safety reasons.
The sight brought her to tears and after buying him a coffee, Karen made an appeal on Facebook for funds to help Jeremy.
It would go on to see Andrea Maude, of Maudes the Jewellers, in Market Place, pay for a room for Jeremy and his dogs at The White Hart Hotel for four nights from Thursday (space was not available on Wednesday) and donations made of £1,500 and counting.
Karen, a self-employed cleaner, said: “You just can’t leave someone like that. When I got in, I couldn’t talk. My son thought I had been attacked in town, bless him. I had to pull up at Boots because I couldn’t see for tears.”
She said she was ‘overwhelmed’ by the response, thanking all those who had contributed.
“Everyone has got behind him,” she said.
Jeremy and his dogs (one of which belonged to his late mother) spent Wednesday night at a shelter arranged for them by Boston Borough Council. Friends of Karen had gone out to see him with a view to putting him up themselves that night, but the council’s intervention meant they no longer had to do this.
Karen has since taken a second rough sleeper under her wing with the help of the donations. Leftover funds will be given to homelessness causes, she says.
Jeremy has been sleeping rough since shortly before Christmas following financial difficulties. Of the support he has received, he said: “I think it’s good. I didn’t expect it.”
The White Hart would ultimately waive its fee, with the payment set to go to the goodwill pot instead, Karen says.
CEO Kevin Charity said: “It was a community-led effort, driven by kind members of the Boston community. Our small part was to make sure that we didn’t make a profit from this situation. We wish Jeremy all the best going forward.”
Boston Borough Council has outlined its support for Jeremy in the run-up to the community effort.
It says when Jeremy was first referred to the authority on Tuesday as a rough sleeper, it was unable to provide accommodation for Jeremy and his dogs but could shelter them separately. Jeremy declined this offer.
Once it was able to find a place where Jeremy could be sheltered with his dogs – and had traced him – this was provided on Wednesday night.
He was one of 10 rough sleepers for which the council found accommodation on Wednesday night. The council stressed ‘no rough sleeper was refused accommodation’.
The number would rise to 16 on Thursday and Friday nights.