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Photograph: Change Please

London buses have been turned into refuges for the homeless

Change Please has turned a pair of double deckers into care centres on wheels

Written by
Leonie Cooper
Ellie Muir

Since October last year, a pair of converted double decker London buses having been roving around the city's streets with an extremely honourable mission.

Instead of taking you to the pub and back – of course, this is also a vital service – these two vehicles have become mobile care centres for the capital’s homeless population, which currently stands at over 3,000 people. 

Offering medical help, showers and haircuts as well as help to find accommodation, the buses are a new initiative from Change Please, who also have a coffee shop business which trains homeless Londoners to be baristas. Rough sleepers are be able to access the buses' services by texting them, which include dental appointments, therapy appointments, as well as shower facilities and haircuts.

Change Please founder Cemal Ezel hopes that the initiative will continue until 2023, with financial backing from the likes of Colgate and Mastercard.

bus inside
Photograph: Change Please

The bus project has the official backing of London Mayor Sadiq Khan, and NHS England is providing GPs for the service. Cemal Ezel said: ‘By providing somebody with a haircut, a shower, a change of clothes, and then they leave with a Polaroid picture of themselves, hopefully they start to remember the person that they used to be and the image of the person that they used to be, which is for us that building block back into them rebuilding their confidence and their self-belief, again to try to have that end goal of them reintegrating back into society and leaving long-term homelessness.’

He added: ‘Someone might be sitting there with a tumour, or growth somewhere, or a black toe, or persistent cough, or a pain in their arm or something like that, and their level of confidence, self-esteem, self-belief, self-worth is so low that actually they just put it to one side.’

Ezel aims to expand the scheme nationally before rolling it out globally, with talks already taking place about similar projects in Paris and Los Angeles.

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