Councillor Renard’s Swindon Advertiser Column, 11th January 2018

Councillor David Renard, Leader of the Council

Resolutions. They are at the forefront of many people’s minds at the start of a new year. For some, losing weight will be a goal, for others it could be giving up smoking. Dry January is also another popular initiative.

But imagine setting yourself the goal of turning your life around. The dozen or so people who have committed to the 12-week temporary winter housing project have done just that.

The project is being run by HOSTS (Homeless Organisations Standing Together in Swindon) a group of voluntary agencies working with the single homeless alongside the Council. It opened in the former Carfax Street medical centre last week and will offer intensive support and accommodation for 12 to 18 individuals who have been sleeping rough on Swindon’s streets. The former medical centre was an ideal location for this temporary project as it is not due for demolition until the spring.

Drugs and health care issues affecting homelessness

Many of those taking part are not only dealing with the issue of homelessness, they are also trying to overcome problems with drink and drugs and will receive additional support from a range of health and care services that will help each individual to live independently in their own tenancy following this winter programme.

And that is the fresh start we hope all of those on the programme achieve because those that successfully progress through the project will be given suitable accommodation by the Council at the end.

This provision would not be possible without the help of a number of fantastic volunteers and I would like to personally thank them for giving up their time to help some of the most vulnerable members of our society.

£1.4m funding per year already provided

The temporary winter housing project is the latest in a series of homeless initiatives that are already provided by the Council. We provide £1.4m in funding per year to local providers of emergency or short-term accommodation, while our Housing Options Service worked tirelessly last year to prevent 500 individuals or families from becoming homeless.

The Homelessness Outreach team, which is provided by Threshold Housing Link, also receives half of its funding from the Council. Funding is also provided for a variety of substance misuse and rehab services as well as supported housing schemes.

The Night Shelter, which operates at St Mary’s Church in Rodbourne on Fridays and some Saturdays, the Harbour Project, the Big Breakfast Club and Day Centre for the Homeless, are all projects supported by the Council.

I could go on, but breaking the cycle of sleeping rough on Swindon’s streets is not a New Year resolution from the Council. It is part of our everyday work.