A scheme to help rough sleepers off the streets for good is proving hugely successful in North Devon.
Housing First has made its local debut thanks to the Encompass Southwest charity and it has already helped five rough sleepers escape the streets and get into a permanent home of their own.
And they are all still there, with not a single report of anti-social behaviour or trouble.
The project is aimed at some of the most entrenched long term rough sleepers and supports them every step of the way, from moving in to learning how to live in a house again and giving them access to support and medical services.
Claire Fisher, CEO at Encompass, said the support would remain as long as people needed it and one of the key principles of the project was asking people what they wanted, rather than what ‘the professionals’ thought should be imposed on them.
She said: “It’s about working with those most entrenched complex rough sleepers who have been six months-plus on the street, and often have mental health, drug or alcohol issues – most of them have had some sort of trauma and many have been through the care system.
“We will visit people every week and when they are ready they will engage. It’s about harm reduction and by doing that and not putting these huge expectations on people, they make the decision to make changes themselves.”
One success story is a man who had been living rough in a tent in Barnstaple after rough sleeping for about 15 years and had previously been unable to spend more than a night in accommodation.
Claire said: “He had significant health problems. Another winter and he probably would have sadly been another statistic of someone dying on the street.
“After temporary accommodation he moved into a flat in Barnstaple last year and he is still there, he is doing really well and we are now at the point where we are reintegrating him back into the community.”
The project is led by Encompass with support from North Devon Council, the police, adult social care services and the Clinical Commissioning Group.
Encompass is keen to get landlords and agents on board and praised Bond Oxborough Phillips Barnstaple for its support and providing two of the properties.
The charity has just had funding from Nationwide which means it could potentially rehome another five to seven clients.
Claire said there were often a lot of negative comments on social media about nothing being done for the homeless and she was keen to highlight the work going on.
She added: “If people want to do something and make changes, come and talk to a charity like ours about how they can work with us to do that.”
Find out more about the work of Encompass Southwest at www.bpag-encompass.org.uk .