“This is a life saver – without schemes like this we could be looking at more deaths on our streets.”
The words of Angus Macpherson, Police and Crime Commissioner for Swindon and Wiltshire, after visiting Swindon’s Temporary Winter Housing Provision yesterday (08/01).
The provision, which is based next to the Ambulance Station on Queens Drive in the former Riverside School, gives an identified group of homeless people, who’ve struggled to engage with the Council in the past, a warm bed and shelter as well as personal support to help them move from rough sleeping into permanent accommodation.
The Temporary Winter Housing Provision runs for four months until April, but a day centre called The Haven will also be based at the building for the next three years and run by the homeless charity Swindon Night Shelter. The Haven will act as a first point of contact for rough sleepers to access vital services such as mental health provision and drug and alcohol support.
Angus, who spends some of his spare time working for the Filling Station charity which also helps the homeless in Swindon, is aware that this facility can be vital and especially when the weather turns cold and wet.
He said: “I come across hundreds of homeless people in my work with the Filling Station and I know that sleeping rough and not having a warm place of safety to go to is one of the worse things for anyone.
“At this time of the year the cold can be a killer, but places like this (Swindon’s Temporary Winter Housing Provision) can be a life saver.”
Angus, who as Police and Crime Commissioner funds a number of support services to the homeless like the health and well being charity Turning Point, is conscious that although there is help available from the Council and many charities, more still needs to be done for the homeless.
“I’ve been volunteering at the Filling Station in Swindon for the past 15 years and always do the Thursday between Christmas and New Year. Rarely do we get customers, however, this Christmas we gave out hot soup and sandwiches to 22 people.
“Clearly, something is wrong – the need by the homeless was not met at a time when usually most are catered for by local charities offering a warm, temporary shelter and hot meal. We’ll have to review the provision on offer in Swindon to see if we need to do more.”
Although Swindon’s Temporary Winter Housing Provision is separate to the help local charities give, as it’s provided by the Council, Angus recognises that any help for those without a roof over their heads is welcome.
“I am pleased to hear that this facility will continue to support homeless people once the Winter provision has passed with the day centre and a so called hub of facilities on offer; this is a good move towards helping those who don’t have accommodation of their own.
“This temporary shelter is at least going some way towards helping.
“However, I feel more needs to be done for the homeless generally; one person needing a hot meal and a warm, dry bed is one too many. We need to try and reduce the number of rough sleepers on our streets.”
Councillor Cathy Martyn, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Housing and Public Safety, said: “It was great to receive the backing of the Police and Crime Commissioner and the Mayor for our Temporary Winter Housing Provision, which provides very intensive support to an identified group of rough sleepers who have found it difficult to come on board with the existing help and support which the Council already provides.
“We hope this support will enable those rough sleepers to come off the streets into safe and sustainable housing. I’d like to thank all the volunteers who play a crucial part in providing this support. I’d also like to acknowledge the huge changes which the guests in the provision are making to their lives.”