Wheels set in motion to help homeless
STAR Murray knows what it is like to live rough. For months he eked out an existence in the woods around Wells with the help of survival skills he learned in the Territorial Army.
Now he is putting his knowledge and experience to good use helping others with no roof over their head.
With the help of the Positive People organisation and a two-week business course, he has set up his own company, Help the Homeless Coach Cafe.
Using money he saved from occasional work, he has bought a coach to live in and to provide a refuge for people sleeping rough who are in need of a hot drink and a bit of company. The coach is sometimes parked at Wells Coach Station and sometimes near the Red Brick Building in Glastonbury – and is always open for visitors.
They can have one tea or coffee, but Star will not permit alcohol, smoking or drugs on or around the coach.
“I’m out to help homeless people. It’s not a job. It’s not to make money. It’s a passion,” he said.
“When I was living in the woods I thought wouldn’t it be nice if you were struggling and you could just go somewhere and knock on the door and it doesn’t matter what time it is.”
The coach has a small kitchen area with a wooden worktop that is going to be replaced with a stainless steel one so that Star can provide soup and hot drinks. Eventually, he hopes to fit an awning and have tables and chairs outside.
There is a woodburner for warmth and a storage area for donated items such as clothes and sleeping bags that Star can hand out to people in need.
He plans to have solar panels fitted to provide energy so that people can have a shower or charge up mobile devices, and a donor has provided 12 months of wi-fi for internet access.
Eventually, he would like the project to grow into a number of double-decker buses around the country with kitchens downstairs and sleeping accommodation upstairs that he can hand over to local communities to run.
“We were brought up that if anybody falls down, pick them up, if anybody is hurting, talk to them. That’s what my mother used to say. She died three months ago so she hasn’t seen this take off,” said Star.
He grew up on the edge of the Yorkshire Moors, but left a partner of eight years and moved south 17 years ago for a succession of odd jobs, festival work and living rough.
“I had a full-time job, a beautiful rented house in the middle of the countryside, a four-wheel drive car, a partner, a dog. I had everything. The only thing I didn’t have was happiness,” he said.
Now the Help the Homeless Coach Cafe has given him a new sense of purpose, and he has gained an affinity for Wells – particularly Wells Cathedral.
“I want to be based near Wells because I want to be near the Cathedral,” he said.
“I like to go to the Cathedral as it brings back lots of memories. When I was homeless I would go there for shelter. It was the best place to go.
“I’m in tears when I light a candle. I light a candle for my mother and for homeless people. And I do kneel down and say a prayer to the creator: ‘Please help those who are out there. Can we have some peace and blessings on this world?’”
• Donations to the Help the Homeless Coach Cafe can be made at https://www.gofundme.com/help-the-homeless-coach-cafe