An initiative to give rough sleepers somewhere to stay during the winter has helped 21 people off the streets.

Safe Sleep opened its doors to rough sleepers at the Salvation Army in Barnstaple for the first 10 weeks of the year.

In that time it provided 653 nights of accommodation to 52 people, with one person staying for 63 nights.

The initiative, run by North Devon and Torridge district councils, saw 21 people successfully housed, helped to return to family or previous accommodation, or returned to the area where they had a local connection.

The project was made possible thanks to one-off funding from central government.

North Devon Council’s lead member for housing, Councillor Nicola Topham said: “Safe Sleep is an incredibly valuable project and the results from earlier this year demonstrate what a drastic impact it can have on the lives of vulnerable individuals in North Devon.

“We are really proud of what has been achieved so far and will continue to seek funding to enhance the services we offer to our rough sleepers.

“We would like to thank the Salvation Army, the Food Bank and the team of volunteers for the support they offered, as well as the public for the generous donations they made while the project was running.”

North Devon Council’s housing team has continued to work with the district’s rough sleepers during the coronavirus outbreak.

A homeless outreach team made up of staff from the council and the Freedom Centre in Barnstaple have been undertaking regular welfare checks and delivering food and water to rough sleepers and van dwellers who have not accepted accommodation.

Rough sleepers have also been provided with mobile phones so they can maintain regular contact with the outreach team.

The team has helped place 17 rough sleepers into emergency accommodation since the start of the outbreak, with six now in longer term housing.