A homeless charity supporting rough sleepers has been given a £16,000 boost by Swindon Cares.
Swindon Cares has presented a cheque for £16,710 to homeless charity Swindon Night Shelter.
Since opening a brand-new day centre, The Haven, earlier this year, Swindon Night Shelter has been providing rough sleepers in Swindon with hot food, clothes, cleaning facilities and support services. Alongside The Haven the charity also provides a Night Shelter at St Mary's Church every Friday.
Swindon Night Shelter say the donation from Swindon Cares has offered a lifeline to many of their guests. Becky Davison, project leader for Swindon Night Shelter, said: "This is going to make a huge difference. This money will really enable the team to continue to serve them, to keep the doors open over this winter period.
"Our guests who come to us have nothing, so everything we provide for them is free of charge. This is going to make a huge impact on what we can do. At the moment it’s going to go towards staffing costs and just the general running of the service – we’re providing food every day; running the vans; work opportunities; and housing our guests.
"This year saw the opening of The Haven day centre which has been a huge blessing to our guests – it means that we’re open every day."
Since The Haven opened in January, Mrs Davison says the need for funding has become paramount as they see hundreds of guests come through the door every month. She said: "Being able to keep this facility open now is really crucial because it’s become quite a lifeline for our guests and they’ve got into a routine of coming every day, so to let them down would be really hard. So, for us it’s really important that we can stay open.
"It’s been so busy. We’re seeing about 300 guests coming through the door a month – that’s individuals. Lots of those guests are returning guests, those who are known to us, but not all those guests are homeless.
"I think in a lot of ways it’s been very successful. We’ve seen 12, nearly 15, of our regular guests move into housing. So, we’ve had the privilege of seeing them come off the streets and move into temporary accommodation or permanent accommodation.
"Most of our guests are engaging with us in the mentoring services and they’re making progress. And, sometimes it’s something tiny, which to us might seem insignificant, like just attending a doctor’s appointment – which sometimes for our guests is a huge step forward – or actively seeking support for their drug and alcohol struggles. So, all those little things are achievements. Everybody who comes to us is an individual – everybody has different goals.
"As we move them into housing that support still needs to continue because it’s like asking someone to change every aspect of their life in a day, so that takes support and encouragement when things wobble.
"We have a guest emergency assistance fund which we always like to make sure there’s a pot of money for. Sometimes we’ll be paying deposits on guests’ rent and helping those guests who may be having a delay in their universal credit, so we get that money through, so they don’t lose their housing. Sometimes our guests need things like their passport documents, so day in day out there’s lots of costs. It’s funny how all those little things can add up.
"Having a safe place to come to, with people around you that you can trust and feel you can open up to is really important. And also, we individually mentor everybody that comes through the door, so we continue that relationship throughout and as we move forward."
In a collaborative effort, Swindon Night Shelter and Swindon Borough Council partnered the new day centre with the council's temporary winter housing scheme which provides housing for selected guests over the winter months. In December the scheme is set to run again for its third year. Mrs Davison said: "With the cold weather it gets much harder to close the door.
"The weather’s turning and it’s starting to get colder and our guests are really starting to feel that. They come to us first thing in the morning, often having spent their evenings in the car parks, or in the local parks in tents – sometimes in local hostels and housing but often their finances aren’t stretching to meet their needs there either."
Mike Ash, the Swindon Borough Council's Head of Housing Services, added: "Yes, that’s planned to go ahead this year.
"We’re still working out the exact dates, because Swindon Night Shelter will be leading on it, so this level of funding helps to secure their future.
"It’ll be around Christmas time when it opens up. We’re looking at a similar programme again."
The Haven is open three days a week for drop-in sessions and seven days a week for food, clothing and support services.
For further information visit www.swindonnightshelter.uk