THE chief executive of Wirral's YMCA hostel for homeless people has expressed concerns over the 'phenomenal' rise in numbers using its services.

Nigel Hughes' comments came as the Birkenhead-based organisation received a donation of more than 500 rucksacks this afternoon, packed with goods for those less fortunate who may have found themselves homeless and sleeping rough on Wirral's streets.

Staff and volunteers of YMCA Wirral are on duty again this year at its night shelter, which has been in operation since 2008, trying to ensure no-one has to survive or die on the streets, and also to provide hot meals over the Christmas period.

The overnight refuge initiative has been accessed over times by a wide range of people, both male and female, who have found themselves on the streets for a variety of reasons.

But Mr Hughes told the Globe today: "The demand for our services is extremely worrying; it seems like we're scaremongering, but we're not.

"The figures speak for themselves.

"In 2015, we provided 2,796 bed nights to men and women who were street homeless. In 2016 that figure had risen to just over 3,000.

"Last year, it was 3,417.

"This year, to date, we have provided 4,598 bed night spaces and we haven't even reached the end of December.

"It is a phenomenal amount. I don't think anyone realises."

The night Shelter costs approximately £30,000 a year to run.

It receives no statutory funding and relies very much on charitable donations from local people and businesses.

Mr Hughes continued: "I sometimes think our night shelter is, very much, the true barometer of our society at the moment.

“The fact that we have rescued so many people from sleeping on the streets tells that there is something fundamentally wrong in society, whether it's government policy or world policy, because, sadly there are people who are desperately, desperately struggling.

"We have had a great deal of support from Birkenhead MP Frank Field.

"He;s been a great champion, pushing the cause for people with food poverty and is a great champion of people struggling in social situations that the majority of people couldn’t really imagine.

“He, I know, feeds that information to Parliament but it seems, to me, that this current Government is not switched on to the real dilemma austerity is causing to some people.

"I'm not just talking about people who are a little bit hard-up or homeless, I'm talking about those who have to make the decision 'is it presents for the kids at Christmas, or some food or energy for warmth and heat?' because they haven't got enough for everything.

"We're seeing people who lost their jobs a few months ago, have had relationship breakdowns and are now on the streets.

"I have seen programmes set in Victorian times and they show scenes that are relative to today, People just trying to eke out an existence to survive."

Mr Hughes, the issue of homelessness is going to increase, adding: "I sometimes feel that my job is just to mop up the tide of homelessness, but it seems as if that tide is now surging against us.

"Unless there are fundamental changes we are going to see more and more deprivation."

The Rucksack Challenge, promoted on Wirral Chamber Of Commerce's Facebook page, attracted interest from businesses and individuals across the borough.

They donated enough essential items, such as food and water, to fill more than 500 rucksacks that were handed over to Wirral YMCA.

Praising the generosity, Nigel Hughes said: "It is truly inspiring to know that people can rally together and support those who are in the greatest need, particularly at this time of year."

Patsy Crocker, executive director of Wirral Chamber, said: “We, as a business community, always answers the call and will continue to do so.

“It is an issue that we cannot walk away from.

“I want to say a huge thank you to all the Wirral businesses and the community.”

To help, call the YMCA on 0151 650 1015 or email