WILTSHIRE Council has been awarded more than £300,000 by the government in extra funding for its Rough Sleepers Initiative.

The rough sleepers project, now in its third year, sees the council provide Wiltshire’s homeless people with valuable support and accommodation.

Despite these extra government funds, the trustees for Devizes-based charity, OpenDoors, have recently seen their application for a council grant to open a night shelter during the coldest months rejected.

The charity wanted to open a shelter at weekends and when temperatures drop below freezing for three or more nights, which would have had beds for up to six people.

This week OpenDoors said that some of those sleeping rough in Devizes have been helped to find accommodation elsewhere in the county.

John Saunders, the chairman of trustees, said it was unlikely that rough sleepers in Devizes would benefit from shelters like the one in Trowbridge, because of the distance from the town and their support systems.

However, Mr Saunders was hopeful that the extra funding will help outreach workers support rough sleepers in Devizes more often than once a week, as at present.

Mr Saunders said “It would be nice to see them a little more often, as the paperwork and red tape to get people into secure and sustained housing can be daunting.

“There’s a number of things life throws at you and they can slip and then find themselves at the mercy of the elements,” he added.

OpenDoors also agreed that more time and effort needed to be invested in a “befriending scheme” to offer sofa surfers and homeless people ongoing support, as this helps make their circumstances better.

The extra government money will go towards funding the council’s team of outreach workers, who help vulnerable people deal with personal issues and find a way off the streets.

Wiltshire Council said this week the shelters opened three times in January/February 2019 and opened last month for four days, when the Severe Weather Provision was triggered. There are six beds at The Haven, Trowbridge, eight at Unity House, Chippenham and 10 at Alabare in Salisbury.

“If there was not enough beds available the council would buy bed and breakfast for the time of severe weather,” a spokesman said.

“Extreme weather conditions like Storm Ciara would not trigger emergency SWEP provisions, however we are always looking to engage with rough sleepers to help them into accommodation if they wish to take advantage of what is on offer.”

Cllr Richard Clewer, cabinet member for housing, said: “We’re delighted that we’ve been able to secure this extra funding to continue to help rough sleepers in Wiltshire. “We believe that nobody should be sleeping on the streets in Wiltshire, and everyone should have access to appropriate support to ensure there is a route off the streets – and this funding will help with this aim.”

The funds will go towards to continuing the efforts of outreach workers across the county and the continued use and maintenance of the Haven, a specialist shelter, in partnership with local charity Alabare.

The funding will also help pay for a new tenancy sustainment officer and extra staff to help support the complex needs of rough sleepers and to help people adjust as they come out of prison.

Last year outreach workers supported 169 rough sleepers to get them off the streets and into secure accommodation.

Cllr Clewer added: “There are many complex reasons why people end up sleeping rough, and our outreach teams and partner agencies work hard to help rough sleepers to turn their lives around.

“Our teams will continue to focus on reducing the number of people sleeping rough in Wiltshire, and support those who are now accommodated to remain in their homes.”

If you see anyone sleeping rough and in need of help, you can contact www.streetlink.org.uk or via the StreetLink app; this will direct help to the people who need it.