Devizes Rough Sleepers
Latest developments: March 2017
Those sleeping in tents in local woodland are about to be evicted by the landowner, Merchant Venturers. The final lease papers have been signed whereby the land will be handed over to Devizes Town Council to use as recreational area for local residents. The landowner will get a Court Order authorising the clearance of the site, which means evicting those who camp there. Only when this has been done with the Town Council take over the land. Those being evicted are urged to engage with the County Council Housing Options team and see what can be arranged for them in the way of accommodation.
What about our Rough Sleepers?
Help is available for rough sleepers. The County Council, several agencies and a number of voluntary groups are all involved in trying to help. However, despite their efforts, we still have a serious local problem that needs sorting out.
For information about volunteering at Devizes Opendoor please click here.
Rough sleepers hoping to find accommodation have to turn to Housing Options offered by the County Council, but there are certain conditions attached to tenancies which many find difficult to keep. That is where several other Council departments and independent agencies come in. They offer support for those with mental health issues, or just out of prison, or with drug and alcohol problems, or finding it difficult to get a job.
Despite all that, something is missing. In fact several things are missing. There are holes in the safety net and people are falling through them.
That is why the Town Council and St. Andrew’s Church teamed up and called a meeting for those concerned about this situation. The meeting took place in the Town Hall on 1st March 2016 and was attended by over 60 people.
1st March 2016 Rough Sleepers Meeting
Rough sleepers mingled with councillors and council staff, representatives of Turning Point, Alabare, Julian House, Police, CAB, the Food Bank and Community First, as well as volunteers from Opendoor and about 25 other local people. The Mayor, Roger Giraud-Saunders welcomed everyone. People were sitting in mixed groups of 6-8 and began tackling several pertinent questions about why people are sleeping rough, what support is available and what more is needed. Everyone's views were noted on large sheets of paper. The suggestions regarding what more is needed fell into three or four main categories which St. Andrew's Church Working Party is now wokring on.
Please click here for a full record of the March 2016 meeting
For a press report on the meeting please go to http://www.gazetteandherald.co.uk/news/towns/devizesheadlines/14314290.Town_rallies_to_help_rough_sleepers_in_Devizes_woods/
How is the Working Party getting on?
This has been meeting every three weeks since 1st March and a detailed Project Plan is coming together. Work is being done towards the following:
- A. Overnight accommodation
- B. Outreach worker
- C. Daytime Activity Centre
- D. Volunteer Team
- E. Fund Raising Activities
- F. Media coverage
- G. Business Plan formation
- H. Organisational development
A. Overnight accommodation
We are looking into three types a) overnight, hostel-style accommodation but possibly in a converted bus, b) a scheme for local people with spare rooms to provide lodgings, c) bedsits in a converted house. A homeless person might move from one to the other but when they qualify for County social housing they can be re-housed more permanently.
B. Outreach Worker
We hope to appoint a part-time professional outreach worker who can provide regular quality time to each homeless person. Over time, this will greatly increase the chances of each person properly dealing with their health and dependency issues so that they can settle in a part of Devizes and become a valued neighbour. The outreach worker will be in regular contact with appropriate agencies and ensure that each homeless person gets onto relevant rehabilitation programmes.
C. Daytime Activity Centre
Hot food and good company are currently available three times a week at Opendoor at St. John's parish rooms. We hope to extend these times and add more social and work-related activities. We hope this can include use of part of St. Andrew's Church premises so that Activity session times can be extended further. Besides homeless people, others living with serious disadvantages are welcome. We hope they too will benefit from support in dealing with bureaucracy and computers.
D. Volunteer Team
There is a good team of volunteers with the Devizes Opendoor project. Others will be invited to join them, and together, take up training in such things as befriending skills, activity organising, drug and alcohol awareness, etc. Such people, and the friendships they build with homeless people, are the bedrock of this project. The ongoing support several of them will be able to provide will have life-changing consequences.
E. Fund Raising
We intend to start raising the necessary funds by a) having a local sponsored sleep-out and taking part in a sponsored run this autumn, b) appealing to well-off pensioners to part with some of their winter heating allowance and, of course c) applying for grants. So as to work towards self-sufficiency, in the longer run we want to set up a social investment scheme and start some sort of social enterprise.
F. Media Coverage
The local press covered the issue of Devizes rough sleepers in February 2016. The meeting in the Town Hall on 1st March was consequently well attended. Homelessness is a ‘attention-grabbing headline’ so our launch this autumn should be well reported by the press and radio. We hope to include ‘good news’ stories from time to time from then on.
G. Business Plan Formation
A plan covering the major aspects of this project is coming together. We are clarifying our aims, desirable the details of premises for overnight and day time purposes, the responsibilities of paid and volunteer staff, a weekly timetable of activities, one or two areas of desirable development and, of course our budget.
H. Organisational Development
We intend to establish a new Devizes organisation which will be a registered charity. This will be developed by a steering committee made up from members of the Opendoor Committee and the St. Andrew’s Working Party. Others from across the town will be invited to join in this work. When the necessary governance and management arrangements are in place this Devizes charity will be launched at a public meeting and members of the new governing board will be elected. We hope this will happen in autumn 2016.
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