A new safe place for homeless people to take shelter in during the colder winter months will open its doors next week.
The Isle of Wight Council, supported by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), has invested more than £40,000 in the former Barton Primary School site in Newport to provide an emergency shelter for those in greatest need this winter.
As well as providing up to 25 rough sleepers with a warm, safe place to sleep and hot food in the coldest months, the shelter will enable the council to make contact with this very vulnerable group of people so it can help find a permanent solution to their housing needs.
The council has commissioned the Salvation Army, an expert in homeless services, to lead the service which will offer much more than just a safe sanctuary for the night when it opens on Monday (11 November 2019).
Rachel Lee, the Christian charity’s homelessness services manager for the Isle of Wight, said: “Homelessness is a complex issue and that’s why the winter night shelter is more than just a bed for the night — we provide a hot meal, a listening ear and support to give the people who visit us increased confidence, dignity and hope to help them move away from homelessness and rebuild their lives.
“The practical support services we provide include helping people to find accommodation, registering with a GP, access to dental treatment and services such as mental health support.
“Last winter, we worked with 71 people over the cold winter months and 48 of those — with our support — moved from living on the streets into a place they could call home.
“The cold weather exposes how tough life can be on the streets. Extreme temperatures can kill and for the vulnerable it can be a matter of life and death.
“It is critical for local organisations like ours to work together to support those experiencing homelessness but more important than ever to do this when the cold weather sets in.”
The emergency shelter will operate until March 2020 and service users will be able to access the provision between 6.30pm until 11am the following morning. The shelter will be run with a mix of both staff and volunteers.
The council is being supported by the MHCLG through the winter fund it has made available, helping towards site renovation costs and service delivery.
The local authority has worked closely with organisations within the local community, including Medina House School, to ensure all potential risks posed by the winter shelter are mitigated.
Councillor Clare Mosdell, Cabinet member for adult social care, public health and housing needs, said: “The provision of a shelter during severe weather is a vital tool which helps reduce the risks posed to people that find themselves with no place to call home.
“We know risks posed on the streets are exacerbated by extreme temperatures — severe weather conditions such as high wind, heavy rain, snow and freezing conditions all increase the risk of harm.
“As a council, we have a moral duty of care for our residents and, for that reason, I have worked hard to ensure that this winter we can provide what should be a basic human right given to everyone — safe shelter.”
Jamie Brenchley, the council’s service manager for housing needs and homelessness, added: “This year we will provide a winter shelter provision that gives hope to the many people on the Isle of Wight that are experiencing homelessness.
“Working with the Salvation Army, we will develop personalised packages of support alongside individuals and partners, designed to support people on their unique journey from homelessness to home.
“This will complement our other homeless services on the Island and enable us to provide an integrated model of accommodation, support and pathways back to independence.
“Life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change.”
Cllr Geoff Brodie, Isle of Wight councillor for the area where the shelter is located said: “It is shaming that in one of the richest economies in the world people are having to sleep rough.
“I am delighted that a shelter is being proved again this winter, but hope that this will be the last year one is needed.
“Pan and Barton has previously welcomed a shelter to its community at the site where Barton Primary is now located. I am sure it will be welcomed again.”
For more information on the shelter, including volunteering opportunities, visit the ‘IOW Salvation Army Homelessness Services’ Facebook page or contact Rachel Lee at Rachel.Lee@salvationarmy.org.uk