A HOMELESS charity held its annual sleepout at the weekend amid such demand for its services it has led to people being turned away from a town centre shelter.

The sleepout, part of the charity’s 40th year, took place overnight on Friday, with Threshold Housing Link setting the target of raising a record £10,000.

In the week leading up to the event, the charity had to turn people away from Culvery Court and hand out blankets to 12 people at the door.

About 40 people took part in the charity’s main fundraiser of the year in the car park of the Immanuel United Reform Church in Upham Road.

Chief executive Cher Sawyer-Smith said: “While we are all thinking of family at this time of year, there are a lot of people who can’t afford to celebrate Christmas.

“We want to provide food and shelter for the people who need it and are working in conjunction with Swindon Council on cold weather provision. We also want to encourage people to think of others less fortunate than themselves when they are wrapped up warm and safe at home.”

The sleepout will raise funds for new projects earmarked by Threshold for the next financial year, including a partnership with Crisis to provide secure rented accommodation for six-month periods.

Mrs Sawyer-Smith said: “We normally raise about £9,000. This time we are looking to crash the £10,000 barrier. The cost of looking after people goes up and up and all the money goes into front-line services, which we are looking to develop.”

The need has been highlighted by the demand placed on Culvery Court, a ‘direct access’ shelter in Harding Street. Mrs Sawyer-Smith said: “We have been turning people away on a regular basis because we have no beds. I did a night shift recently to cover for someone else and in 48 hours we must have turned people away on half-a-dozen occasions.”

Threshold’s operations director Phil Smith met Ed Vaizey MP, Government minister for culture, communications and creative industries, at community radio station Swindon 105.5 on Friday.