Renovations are underway for winter housing project to open its doors in January

By Claire Dukes - 7 December 2017

PoliticsCommunityCharity

The Swindon Homeless Alliance and Swindon Borough Council hosted an open afternoon for volunteers interested in partaking in the latest winter housing initiative.

Renovations are currently taking place at the former Health Centre on Carfax Street. Yesterday marked an open day for locals and volunteers to view the venue and ask any questions about the project.

As a collaborative effort, charities across Swindon are devoting their time to collect donations to make sure the venue is ready for its opening on January 3. Charities and organisations involved include Swindon Borough Council, Night Shelter, Threshold, Christmas Care, Food bank, The Salvation Army, and Big Breakfast Plus.

The building is being made suitable to house at least 18 rough sleepers across 11 weeks. This will also include a kitchen, bathroom, two sleeping areas, and a designated space for volunteers.

Although the building is still planned to be demolished in March, Swindon Council believe that this is a forward-thinking initiative to trial permanent housing fixtures for rough sleepers.

Project Coordinator Rachel Holly, of Swindon Borough Council who are custodians of the building, explained: "This is a lot more of a collaborative effort, and it's slowly coming together.

"We want to offer a safe space for people who are sleeping on the streets and provide more structure from the simplest things to waking up, having a shower, and then eating breakfast. Lockers will also be provided to place any belongings they bring with them.

"I've been working with homelessness for so many years now, so this is really exciting. For action to be being taken, and to be a part of this project, is fantastic."

Rachel also explained how those who use the shelter and work with Swindon Council and the charities will be given a housing offer at the end of the 11 weeks. During this time they will be working with Booth House to offer tenancy ready courses.

Swindon Foodbank has supplied the food for the upcoming trial, with donations welcome, which will be stored and prepared in Carfax's donated and newly fitted kitchen.

Cher Smith, Swindon Foodbank Manager, said that there has been some misunderstanding and miscommunication regarding the official opening date of the shelter in January.

She said: "We didn't want to open the shelter until after Christmas to make sure we don't deter volunteers away from other charities, such as Christmas Care, with whom we are working alongside.

"This project is aimed at a different client group, for those of no fixed address, with a much more dedicated type of service which after these 11 weeks we're hoping to find a permanent residency for.

"We've also had to consider the legalities to make sure all the costs are covered, which in itself is a process we must go through before opening."

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