How you can help the district’s rough sleepers

Posted on: 28 September 2018

Devon and Cornwall Police, North Devon Council and Barnstaple Town Council are working together to highlight the work being done locally to support rough sleepers in Barnstaple and North Devon and are appealing to the public for help.

Following recent calls from local businesses, Barnstaple Town Centre Management and members of the public, who are concerned about rough-sleepers and people begging for money on the High Street, the council’s housing team and local police are working to raise awareness of the support that is available for the district’s homeless community.

The council and local police have visited over 170 business premises in the town to explain what is being done to support rough sleepers and how business owners and the public can help signpost those in need to those who can help.

North Devon Council has a homelessness team made up of rough sleeper outreach workers, a social worker and specialist drug and alcohol recovery worker. The team estimates they will work with about 130 rough sleepers this year, the majority of whom are single, homeless individuals; many have complex needs. This generates a large daily demand for police and local support services. The team is in daily contact with the district’s rough sleepers and engages with each individual to help them plan a way for them to get off the street and into better circumstances. Every plan is different and there are many barriers to be overcome, in some cases a reluctance to leave the streets is the barrier and when housing is offered, many choose to remain homeless.

Mayor of Barnstaple Councillor Ian Roome says: “Seeing rough sleepers on the High Street is upsetting and I know there is an impression that rough sleepers are ignored, or have been forgotten by society – this simply isn’t true. North Devon Council’s rough-sleeper outreach service works closely with the local police to support the town’s homeless on a daily basis. Hot meals are available at the Freedom Centre and we work closely with other homeless charities, including Encompass Southwest to try and turn people’s lives around. Although it may seem like a good idea to give cash to those begging on the streets, it can encourage them to stay on the streets. We want a better outcome for them and there are much better ways to help.”

North Devon Council’s Executive member for Housing, Councillor Dick Jones says: “We want people to know support is out there and is offered every day. We have just been able to extend our winter accommodation with Freedom Community Alliance, which means that rough sleepers with a local connection to North Devon can access a warm bed for the night and a hot meal everyday throughout the winter months (from October to March). Anyone using this service is expected to comply with a reasonable code of conduct. Rather than giving cash to people on the street, give them something to eat or talk to them about where they can get help. If you’re worried about someone, get in touch with us.”

How can you help?

If you’re worried about someone sleeping rough there are a few things you can do. Buying a hot drink, some food or warm clothing like socks for someone sleeping rough can make a difference. Making a donation to a homeless charity, engaging rough sleepers in conversation or volunteering time are other ways of providing support.

Giving cash may seem generous, but providing cash can keep people trapped in the endless cycle of homelessness and rough sleeping, particularly for those who are also battling drugs and alcohol issues.
If you are concerned about a rough sleeper, contact the council on 01271 388870 or email customerservices@northdevon.gov.uk.

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Posted in: Community | Housing