Latest New Safe Sleep Service Ensures There’s No Reason to Sleep Rough This Winter in North Devon On the 1st of October, North Devon’s District Council and Freedom Community Alliance will open the doors of the first winter shelter project for North Devon’s homeless. Dubbed the Safe Sleep Service, the project aims to provide a warm and safe place for up to 20 rough sleepers who will receive a light meal, bed down and be given breakfast each morning between October 1st of this year and March 31st of next, ensuring that homeless people in North Devon are able to choose to sleep in a secure, warm and dry place this coming winter. More than somewhere to stay off the streets Along with providing a free and safe place for homeless people to sleep, the project will enable individuals to establish and maintain strong and effective relationships with welfare professionals from a range of government and voluntary organisations. This ‘in-reach support’, provided from the Safe Sleep venue at the Freedom Centre in Newport, Barnstaple, will enable homeless individuals to overcome common obstacles to finding accommodation - such as lack of I.D or a rental deposit - and create an environment in which people will be able to proactively help themselves by accessing the necessary assistance to reintegrate with our community and find homes. The Freedom Centre is an ideal location for the Safe Sleep project, enabling homeless people to not only have a warm and safe location to bed down, but also access the free clothing store, shower facilities and comforts that allow for non-threatening sociable engagement. Freedom Community Alliance’s staff, who already have experience delivering night shelters as part of NDDC’s emergency shelter statutory compliance, will ensure the smooth running of the service. An additional benefit of holding the Safe Sleep service at the Freedom Centre is the multi-agency housing hub that is based in the same building; ensuring Safe Sleep service users are able to access all the help they need to move from homelessness to appropriate accommodation in one location. Winter causes premature deaths for homeless people According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, there were at least 78 premature deaths of homeless people in England over the 2017/18 winter. Along with extreme cold causing issues such as frostbite, hypothermia and exposure, winter can exacerbate mental health issues, increase feelings of isolation and aggravate depression. The Safe Sleep Service will not only reduce rough sleeper numbers in the area and create an environment that empowers them to address their situation, it is also sure to improve health outcomes for the homeless while relieving pressure on A&E and other health services. Homelessness has been on the rise in England over the past 8 years. Crisis estimates homelessness across England to be 169% higher than in 2010 when longitudinal records of rough sleeping and homelessness began. Based on recent trends it’s expected that this winter’s enhanced rough sleeper service will reach 131 new homeless people in North Devon, and 139 by 2020/21. Helping people back on their feet Councillor Dick Jones, Executive Member for Housing, says: “We were recently awarded funding from central government to support rough sleepers and we’re using £130,000 of this to enhance our emergency accommodation for rough sleepers for the whole of the winter. We are pleased to be working with Freedom Community Alliance to provide the Safe Sleep service at the Freedom Centre, which will mean rough sleepers can receive the support they need in a safe and comfortable environment, with access to all the help they need to find a more permanent solution to help get them off the streets.” Freedom, known for their non-judgemental and compassionate approach to tackling homelessness in North Devon, is ideally placed to offer the service and hold an excellent reputation with the local homeless population for helping people get back on their feet and into safe and secure accommodation. The Safe Sleep Service will enable a holistic and flexible provision to be delivered that meets the needs of vulnerable homeless people in our community while also enabling better sharing of knowledge, best practice and the development of future interventions that reduce rough sleeping, mitigate chronic homelessness or prevent it from occurring in the first place.