Dealing with homelessness doesn’t just apply to Shrewsbury, but every town in the country, a top local government officer told our Rotary club. Speaking to Shrewsbury Severn Rotary Club members, the town clerk of Shrewsbury Town Council Helen Ball said it was about getting organisations working collaboratively together.

It was also about drugs and county lines which were blighting the town.

She told Rotarians: “We have a task force looking at ways in dealing with the issues and seeking best practice. It is difficult because they are not always breaking the law, but it is sorting out the problem and providing them with the necessary support. These are individuals who are used to sleeping rough for a long period of time. They need longer term support so this is not a cheap or quick fix.”

Homelessness was one of the issues raised by Rotarians during the town clerk’s talk in which she went on to highlight other local issues. One of these was the capacity of the sewage system and how it was impacting on the River Severn running through Shrewsbury.

“We have a Victorian sewer system which often can’t cope with the capacity of modern life and often full to capacity sewers have to release into the river. This is starting to impact on the bio diversity of the river affecting plants, fauna and fish. We are lobbying Severn Trent,” she told Rotarians.

Helen was asked why the considerable local new build had no solar panels as part of the planning conditions, as well as why all the heating was by gas. She explained that these issues were not part of planning policies, but added an assurance that this point was ‘being investigated.’

She spoke of the 2020-21 ‘life threatening’ floods when staff worked nights filling sand bags to help businesses. “This is a kind of humbling experience you need to operate in a different way.  Why wouldn’t we help the community?

“The biggest crisis,” said Helen, “is the climate emergency and not putting off until tomorrow what we can do today to make a difference to the community. And that is down to every single one of us. We have worked out what the Town Council’s carbon footprint is; this equates to the same as 40 households, yet we have 30,000 households in Shrewsbury so there is a lot we can do to encourage others to do their bit. Over the last year we have converted all of our street lights to energy efficient LED lights and installed solar lights. The mayor will get an electric car in the next couple of weeks – there’s a multitude of other things we have put in place. We have changed our model of working. We have a team of people working together to get the best resources out of different organisations. It is the pooling of finances and delivery of services to make Shrewsbury a better place through Team Shrewsbury. Play is important and Covid brought facilities to the fore. Parks and open spaces have changed the emphasis of people from a play point of view and the social wellbeing of young people. We have spent lots of time and money on making sure we have the best facilities. The splash facility and play area in the Quarry has probably been the best £375,000 the Town Council has ever spent. People come from miles around – and from within the county – to let their children play here.”

In response to ‘what can Rotary do to help?’ she responded: “Bulb and tree planting is creating a carbon footprint sustainably moving forward in the future.

“Spreading the climate emergency message. Be proud of the town we live in. We are exceptionally lucky and our job collectively is to look after Shrewsbury.”

Anyone interested in learning more about Shrewsbury Severn Rotary Club can email gdmw@hotmail.co.uk

Shrewsbury Severn Rotary Club president John Yeomans welcomes Helen Ball to the meeting

Julian Wells

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