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Sleeping with one eye open - Rough sleeper team share what it's like on the streets and work to support

Rough sleeping can be isolating, it can be frightening living moment to moment in a state of flight, fright and freeze.

Published 30 November 2023
Rough sleeper video cropped

Wiltshire Council's rough sleepers team has created a video sharing what it's like for people sleeping on the streets and how the team helps provide support to them. https://youtu.be/oxCOdFjLRbU (opens new window).

The team is out every day including in extreme weather conditions, providing hot drinks, a listening ear and an encouragement to move off the streets and into a warm place.  

The video shares the early morning routine, seeking out the spots where people try to stay safe and warm. Voiced by Wiltshire Council team member Geraldine it explains how the team works hard to encourage people to move into accommodation and to have support.

She explains: "Sleeping rough is the result of many complex factors and it's a priority of the rough sleeper team to find a pathway out of homelessness and into recovery. Our aim is to support people off the streets and to have a secure place to live. But it takes more than a roof to recover from homelessness. Through positive engagement we aim to provide holistic support, focussing on health, recovery from addictions, housing and gain new skills to have a life away from the streets.

One of the ways the rough sleepers team achieve this is through the Streets to Garden project. Carrying out garden projects in Melksham and Salisbury to grow fruit and veg provides a supportive platform to help them focus on meaningful occupation to build on self worth to then access jobs, voluntary work and just feel part of the community again.

The council works with rough sleepers throughout the year to help them find a place to stay and support to get back on track. The work is carried out alongside charities, which offer practical support as well as longer-term aid.*

If people see someone on the streets they can provide details to StreetLink (opens new window) which connects rough sleepers with local services that can support them. Streetlink will provide the council with details so officers can talk to the rough sleeper, help them find a warm place to stay and offer ongoing support.

People are also encouraged to donate to local charities in Wiltshire, which directly help those in need.

In October 23 the council supported 47 rough sleepers via early morning outreach, of which 26 were new to rough sleeping - this is where officers go out in pairs to engage with rough sleepers, take hot coffees and see what support can be provided. Officers then arrange a follow up appointment to explore support and accommodation options. The approach aligns with the Wiltshire Council Business Plan to help residents live in warm and safe homes.

Currently more than 17 people are being helped into short-term accommodation in Wiltshire and 28 in longer term accommodation. The council's rough sleeper tenancy officers also continue to support more than 110 rough sleepers into long-term accommodation.

Cllr Phil Alford, Cabinet Member for Housing said The rough sleeper team is there throughout the year offering warm coffee, a listening ear and that encouragement for people who live on the streets to work out the next step to getting a roof over their head and a way back to living again. This video shares a real insight into what it's like for people but it also shows how there is light - there is opportunity. Our garden plots are one example of having a mission and doing something different which can be the alternative option needed to consider other options and onto a more fulfilling life.

You want to do something to help and often it feels the easiest thing is to give money. We would encourage people instead to contact us via Streetlink as we will quickly act on the information sent to us. People can also donate to local homeless charities where the money is used to provide a range of practical support and advice.

Everyone has a story. Some individuals who sleep rough have suffered child or adulthood traumas and sometimes it can take time to build trust and rapport before a rough sleeper will accept accommodation. Our rough sleeper outreach team will focus on the individual and support them into having a warm, safe place to stay.

Wiltshire Council secured a government £1.5m government rough sleepers' initiative grant, spread over three years up to 2025. The grant helps fund accommodation, officers and programmes.

*Details of charities:

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