Page last updated at 09:49 GMT, Saturday, 13 February 2010

Criminals' assets fund rescue bus

The SOS Bus works in the city centre at the weekends
The SOS Bus works in the city centre at the weekends

Money taken from criminals is helping fund a Belfast city centre rescue bus.

The SOS bus has helped 760 people over the last two years on Friday and Saturday nights.

It has now secured more than £100,000 in funding from the police and other donors. Police said their contribution was from criminals through the asset recovery scheme.

Stephen Kingon, Chairman of SOS Bus NI Ltd, said they had engaged with more than 65,000 people since 2008.

"With over 100 volunteers to staff the bus, with more joining every month we have recently refurbished a second bus to meet the growing demand for the services we offer," he said.

Wendy Middleton of the PSNI Organised Crime Branch said the bus carried out a valuable role.

"We are delighted to be able to support the SOS Bus initiative which carries out a valuable role in the community, assisting our officers by providing care and help to those in need - be it requiring medical assistance or a lift home, the SOS Bus volunteers provide an indispensable service to the local community," she said.

Since its launch the bus has become a familiar fixture on the streets of Belfast, providing support to those who have taken too much alcohol or used drugs, been the victims of violence, fear for their safety, are in need of someone to talk to or just need directions and advice.

Organisers said that of those they engaged with nearly 800 had "emotional or physical need and required intervention" and that the life of one person had been saved as a direct result of the work of the bus volunteers.

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