By Ryan Thompson
Swindon Borough Council will for the second year running offer special temporary winter housing provision for the town’s most vulnerable rough sleepers.
The project, which will see a select number of homeless people given shelter and intensive support during the colder winter period, received cabinet approval last night and will run for four months during the forthcoming winter.
The Temporary Winter Housing Provision scheme was introduced last year to provide a safe refuge for rough sleepers. Of the eight people who were given permanent accommodation after completing the scheme, not a single one has returned to the streets and the council is keen to replicate this success.
The previous programme, which ran from January to March this year, saw around 50 volunteers work with rough sleepers in the old Carfax Street Health Centre building. A new venue will have to be found for this winter and the council hopes to be able to offer accommodation to at least 10 rough sleepers.
The cost of the project in 2017/18 was £42,000, which included building refurbishment and compliance work, staff costs and other provisions. Following a successful bid for funding from central government to help reduce rough sleeping, the council has been awarded £194,000 to be spent by March 2019.
This year, £60,000 of this funding will go towards the Temporary Winter Housing Provision, with a further £30,000 earmarked for the 2019/20 financial year. Each year, the council spends £1.4m on providing emergency or short-term accommodation for those who need it.
Cllr Cathy Martyn, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Housing and Public Safety, said: “I am proud to be able to say that the project will go ahead again this year. Those who successfully complete the programme will be given suitable, permanent accommodation by the council afterwards, which we hope will be the fresh start they so badly need.
“The people we help are among the most vulnerable in our community. As well as being homeless, they often have severe alcohol and drug problems as well as delicate mental health issues.
“The local homelessness support organisations who worked to make the scheme such a success last year did a brilliant job and I am sure that together we can achieve the same positive results again.”
Offering temporary winter housing provision is just one of the many things the council attempts to help homeless people and those at risk of becoming homeless. The council is currently drafting the Rough Sleeper Strategy and the Homelessness Strategy which will focus resources on combating homelessness and rough sleeping.