The local authority is opening an emergency winter shelter at the former Barton Primary School site in Newport.
As well as providing rough sleepers with a warm, safe place to sleep and hot food in the coldest months, the shelter will enable the council to make contact with this very vulnerable group of people so it can help find a permanent solution to their housing needs.
Councillor Clare Mosdell, Cabinet member for adult social care, public health and housing needs, said the council was very clear that no one should have to sleep rough. She said:
“Living on the streets is one of the most dangerous, frightening and isolating experiences anyone could face.
“In previous years, a variety of churches have done a brilliant job in providing rolling emergency night shelter provision and we pay tribute to all of the faith leaders for their compassion and commitment in opening churches for the night.
“However, I believe we should not have to rely on others to fund such a vital service.
“As a council, we have a moral duty of care for our residents and, for that reason, I have worked hard to ensure we can provide what should be a basic human right given to everyone — safe shelter.
“This type of initiative illustrates how the council can make use of its facilities to aid those most in need.
“For me, it is about building trust and helping people to turn their lives around.”
The council is commissioning the Salvation Army, an expert in homeless services, to lead the service which will offer much more than just a safe sanctuary for the night.
In many cases, people experiencing homelessness are already facing multiple complexities, which are compounded further by spending even one night sleeping on the street.
Those in need on the Island will be provided with a caring arm to help them rebuild their lives and address the reasons for their rough sleeping. The service will also help people access the support they need, such as welfare benefits or healthcare.
The council is being supported by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government through the winter fund it has made available, helping towards site renovation costs and service delivery.
The local authority has worked closely with organisations within the local community, including Medina House School, to ensure all potential risks posed by the winter shelter are mitigated.
The ward councillor, Geoff Brodie, said:
“We used to have a winter homeless shelter at the current Barton Primary School site after Downside Middle School closed in 2011, but that had to close after winter 2015 due to the Barton school move.
“I am pleased to see the old Barton school being used for something that is sadly still much needed by those unfortunate enough to be without a roof over their head.”