The sister of a late Big Issue vendor is keeping his memory alive by housing 14 homeless people in renovated accommodation.
Jen Roberts set up charity Homeless Worldwide eight months ago following ex-Bournemouth seller Darren James Ledger’s death in Christmas 2017.
Last year, she posthumously achieved one of Darren’s life goals when she recorded a charity version of The Hollies’ ‘He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother’ featuring Peter Andre, M People’s Heather Small, Atomic Kitten’s Natasha Hamilton and more.
Now, Jen is launching the next stage of Darren’s legacy by launching 14-room accommodation in South Shields to help offer 14 people a path off of the street.
The work has been carried out by the charity along with Supporting Lives and the Borough of South Shields and will open its doors today with further accommodation to open later this year with room for another 50 people.
The accommodation will offer access to support for residents and will enforce a no-drugs policy.
The Big Issue has inspired the launch of 120 street papers globally, including sister titles in Australia, South Africa, Japan, Taiwan and Korea.
Jenny Roberts said: “The accommodation we have were originally crack dens and the council were going to board them up. They were completely uninhabitable, full of faeces, needles and so on. The charity we work with, Supporting Lives, basically their builders have come in and renovated everything to a very high standard. Anybody could live there – I do feel that some homeless people feel that hostels cannot be habitable.
“We’ve got another couple of properties being refurbished at the moment and we’re just waiting for them to be finished, hopefully by November, so we can help 50 more people off the streets. Our plan is to take this all over the country, particularly in cities.”
And to Jen the project is lasting tribute to her brother Darren, with a plaque in dedication to him set to be unveiled at the site’s grand opening.
“I’ve always been an advocate for homeless people, even before my brother became homeless himself,” she said. “I was so traumatised when I learned about my brother’s death. I still am, and the only way I could deal with my grief was to do something positive like this.”
M People singer and ambassador/director of Homeless Worldwide Small said: “We hope to see self-respect and pride restored, for those who need and deserve a chance to re-engage with society.”