Councils and police have called on the public to help them support those on the streets in the district.
Devon and Cornwall Police, North Devon Council (NDC) and Barnstaple Town Council are working together to highlight the work being done to help rough sleepers in the town and district.
Following recent calls from local businesses, Barnstaple Town Centre Management and members of the public, who are concerned about rough-sleepers and people begging for money on the High Street, the council’s housing team and police are working to raise awareness of the support that is available for the homeless community.
The council and police have visited more than 170 business premises in the town to explain what is being done and how business owners and the public can help point those in need in the right direction to get help.
Mayor of Barnstaple Councillor Ian Roome said: “Seeing rough sleepers on the High Street is upsetting and I know there is an impression that rough sleepers are ignored, or have been forgotten by society - this simply isn’t true.
“North Devon Council’s rough-sleeper outreach service works closely with the local police to support the town’s homeless on a daily basis. “Hot meals are available at the Freedom Centre and we work closely with other homeless charities, including Encompass Southwest to try and turn peoples’ lives around. Although it may seem like a good idea to give cash to those begging on the streets, it can encourage them to stay on the streets. We want a better outcome for them and there are much better ways to help.”
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NDC has a homelessness team made up of rough sleeper outreach workers, a social worker and specialist drug and alcohol recovery worker.
The team estimates they will work with about 130 rough sleepers this year, the majority of whom are single, homeless individuals; many have complex needs.
This generates a large daily demand for police and local support services. The team is in daily contact with the district’s rough sleepers and works with each individual to help them plan a way for them to get off the street and into better circumstances.
The council says every plan is different and there are many barriers to be overcome, in some cases a reluctance to leave the streets is the barrier and when housing is offered, many choose to remain homeless.
NDC councillor for housing, Dick Jones added: “We want people to know support is out there and is offered every day. We have just been able to extend our winter accommodation with Freedom Community Alliance, which means that rough sleepers with a local connection to North Devon can access a warm bed for the night and a hot meal everyday throughout the winter months (from October to March).
“Anyone using this service is expected to comply with a reasonable code of conduct. Rather than giving cash to people on the street, give them something to eat or talk to them about where they can get help. If you’re worried about someone, get in touch with us.”
Suggestions of ways to help include buying a hot drink, food or warm clothing like socks for someone sleeping rough can make a difference. Making a donation to a homeless charity, engaging rough sleepers in conversation or volunteering time are other ways of providing support.
If you are concerned about a rough sleeper, contact the council on 01271 388870 or email email@example.com.