A DOUBLE decker bus converted into a shelter is set to provide a safe place for rough sleepers in Swindon this winter.

It is the second conversion for Gerry Watkins and it will offer nine people somewhere to lay their heads for the night.

His Big Yellow Bus Project started when he noticed a rise in the number of homeless people in Cirencester and decided to give an old bus a new lease of life.

It took the 56-year-old, who was born in Highworth, 14 months to finish it and he is now halfway through converting the second with the help of a small band of volunteers.

He said: “I had a dream of getting homeless bus shelters in Cirencester, Swindon, Stroud, Gloucester and Cheltenham.

“Dreams do come true if you believe in them. Together we can help change lives. My dream has become a reality.

“I’m also helping other people throughout the UK convert buses into homeless shelters.”

After his first project, Gerry, a warehouse driver for Edmont in Swindon, bought a second bus from Swindon company TOPS Security Solutions limited in Westmead.

He said: “They saw the project and they had a double decker bus in their storage area, so I bought it for £2,900.

“The first bus took fourteen months, but it was my very first one and I knew nothing about it. I converted it and I’ve learned a lot about the bus in Cirencester, so that’s why this one is cheaper. And also, I got good support from local businesses in Swindon.”

Swindon Advertiser: It will offer nine beds It will offer nine beds

The bus will provide beds for seven men and two women and the female sleeping quarters will be separate to ensure safety and privacy.

Gerry hopes it will be finished by the end of November.

“I decided to come to Swindon because homeless people need help like in any other town,” he said.

“I’m hoping to hand it to homeless organisations in Swindon, but if that fails I’ll find a place away from residential properties and set it up there.”

Swindon Advertiser: Double decker bus in Swindon Double decker bus in Swindon

The project relies on donations and Gerry is organising fundraising events every weekend.

He started fundraising in August 2017 for his first bus by getting bands to play at gigs. “I was overwhelmed by the sheer kindness of all the bands coming to support the project from miles around.”

He said he needs to raise £1,000 pounds a month to keep the buses running.

A Big Yellow Bash is being held on September 21 at the Steam Railway Pub on Newport street from 12pm to 2am.

Ignite Talent in Swindon founder Sara Fernandez said: “Gerry has worked tirelessly to help keep the homeless safe and warm so I will do all I can to help him raise funds through Ignite talent and our artists

.” For information visit: facebook.com/events/953483471710812/