A homeless man who was able to turn his life around thanks to North Devon’s Safe Sleep service has spoke about how the provision helped him.

Robert found himself homeless at the age of 64 after suffering a breakdown and spiralling into debt.

Robert was one of 111 people to access the Safe Sleep service, a joint initiative by North Devon Council (NDC) and Freedom Community Alliance which opened its doors to rough sleepers between October and March.

It provided 1,857 nights of accommodation thanks to the one-off funding received from the Government, and has helped at least 36 people find accommodation.

For Robert, the 38 nights he spent with the Safe Sleep service helped him turn things around.

"After my marriage broke down, ending in divorce and the loss of my job, I suffered a breakdown," he said.

"I ended up in considerable debt and my life seemed to spiral out of control. As a result, I was evicted from the cottage I was renting and at the age of 64, I faced my first night of sleeping on the streets."

After being directed to the service, Robert held strong reservations about how his first night with Safe Sleep would play out.

"The first night I attended I was very nervous as I didn't know what to expect," he said.

"I thought I would have to sleep in a shop doorway as I had burnt all my bridges. I was almost suicidal and terrified about how I would cope outside."

However, Robert's fears were quickly quashed: "As I entered, I was given a warm welcome, hot food, a hot drink. I had my own sleeping bag and pillow and a soft mattress to sleep on.

"It was everything I needed to feel comfortable and safe. I spent the next 38 nights there until I was rehoused into Freedom Supported Housing, which is where I still am.

"Safe Sleep was a lifesaver for me. I seriously don't think I would have coped without it. I am hugely grateful for this fantastic facility. I believe it saved my life."

NDC's lead for housing equality, Natasha Rowland, said the council will continue to seek funding to improve its services for rough sleepers.

"Stories like Robert's just go to show how important Safe Sleep is and what a drastic impact it has had on the lives of vulnerable individuals in North Devon"

Philip Noall, chief executive for Freedom Community Alliance, said: "We couldn't have delivered Safe Sleep without the support of numerous volunteers who gave up their time during the evenings and early mornings. For this we are extremely grateful."