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Local girl brings gifts to homeless people

A local schoolgirl has warmed the hearts of residents and staff at Gosport's emergency accommodation for homeless people.

The eight-year-old, known only as Sophie, saved up her pocket money to donate gift bags to people living in the town's temporary 'pods'.

The 30 pods were set up at the town's Walpole Park car park by Gosport Borough Council when the coronavirus crisis hit, to house rough sleepers and others in need.

Sophie arrived at the pods with her mum on Tuesday and handed over individual bags containing supplies including toothpaste, a toothbrush, tissues, wipes, shampoo, socks, a snack bar and a bottle of water.

A handwritten note, enclosed with each one, said: "Hi, I have saved my money up for a while so I could buy you some essentials. I hope you like them. From Sophie (aged 8)."

Her mum told staff at the site that Sophie had saved her pocket money over the past few months as she wanted to help those less fortunate than herself.

The kind gesture came on the same day that councillors agreed to keep funding the pods until at least January, while it works on a more permanent solution to the residents' housing needs.

Members of the council's Policy and Organisation Board authorised continued spending beyond the £189,000 agreed at the beginning of the crisis.

The council is planning, with the help of government funding, to meet the national goal of ensuring that people continue to get the specialist support they need after leaving emergency pandemic accommodation, and that as few as possible return to the streets.

Cllr Graham Burgess, Chairman of the council's Housing Board, said: "We'd like to say thanks to Sophie and her mum for such a lovely gesture. The residents really appreciated Sophie's kindness, as did we.

"It's fine if she wants to remain anonymous, but if the family wanted to come forward so we could thank them properly, that would be great.

"The council is committed to supporting the residents of the pods, not just during the pandemic but into the future. The decision to keep funding the pods demonstrates this commitment. We're working hard on ways to provide people with more permanent accommodation and a more settled future."

Liam, one of the pod residents, wrote a thank-you note, saying: "Thank you to Sophie for my was the cutest thing ever and made my heart melt. If you see this Sophie's mum, please get in touch as I'd like to do something for Sophie in return."

The pods, some for couples and some for single people, were hired by the council in April. All are fully self-contained with a fridge, microwave, shower and toilet. The council also provided bedding, kettles, cutlery, crockery and other household items.

Although the council provided accommodation for homeless people and rough sleepers before the coronavirus outbreak, the pods were needed because normal sources of temporary accommodation were no longer available.

The council also needed to support many new clients without permanent, self-contained homes of their own, so they could have somewhere safe to stay and could self-isolate if necessary.

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