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Rough sleepers in North Devon are continuing to receive support as the colder months approach, thanks to initiatives delivered by North Devon Council and local charity, Freedom Community Alliance.

Bolstered by their partnership approach, the council's Enhanced Outreach Team and Freedom Community Alliance have continued to provide bespoke support services throughout the Covid-19 pandemic to those in crisis; and they are now reassuring the North Devon community that the support will continue as we move towards winter. The partnership was recently successful in securing funding to create a new open plan office at The Freedom Centre, large enough to accommodate all workers from the Enhanced Outreach Team, which they say will ensure a truly integrated service is delivered to all.  

Council officers, together with Freedom staff, have worked tirelessly over the last 18 months to find accommodation for those rough sleepers who want to get off the streets; and to make life easier for those who don't. For individuals who prefer to stay on the streets or have not yet been found suitable accommodation, the team is currently offering shower facilities, a weekly GP clinic and a mobile phone charging service, in addition to other bespoke services and initiatives.

One such initiative is the Tap for North Devon campaign, funded by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner’s ‘Safer Towns’ Funding, delivered through North Devon and Torridge’s Community Safety Partnership. Tap for North Devon aims to enhance support for local homeless charities, Encompass Southwest and Freedom Community Alliance, through easily accessible donation points situated throughout Barnstaple. Each tap on a payment device with a contactless credit or debit card takes a £3 donation. This is then split equally between the two charities, who are skilled at improving the lives of vulnerable rough sleepers.

Further support for rough sleepers comes from Freedom Community Alliance's reopening of the Freedom Centre following a period of closure as a result of coronavirus. The Centre is now open for drop-in visits between 11.30am and 1.30pm, Monday to Thursday. 

Lead Member for Housing at North Devon Council, Councillor Nicola Topham says: "The last 18 months has been challenging for the whole community but for anyone in housing crisis it has presented additional challenges. For this reason, our Enhanced Outreach Team has worked even harder to ensure rough sleepers are receiving the assistance they need.

"Initiatives like Tap for North Devon are ways of supporting the brilliant local charities who work so hard to support rough sleepers. This work will not stop just because some sort of normality has returned after lockdown; our housing team will continue to work closely with partners and continue their plight to ensure every individual is offered the help they require as we head into the colder months."

Chief Executive of Freedom Community Alliance, Philip Noall says: "The pandemic has changed the way we deliver our services and, in many respects, these have been enhanced through the increased partnership approach. In addition to opening the Freedom Centre again, we will be offering separate time for private appointments and continuing the essential street outreach work with North Devon Council.

"During the pandemic we have increased our accommodation and will soon be opening a specific four bedroom winter provision in conjunction with North Devon Council that further enhances the services on offer. The open access drop in sessions will be serving coffee and cake initially and hopefully a meal service will follow soon."

The council's Enhanced Outreach Team is made up of a housing specialist, a Community Psychiatric Nurse, a Physical Health Nurse, a drug and alcohol specialist and a Navigator Coordinator, plus other highly skilled support workers.

Freedom Community Alliance is a Barnstaple-based charity operating across North Devon. They provide opportunities for people experiencing problems with homelessness, drug and alcohol addiction, offending behaviour, poor mental health, poverty and isolation. By working with key strategic partners, they help people access the support they need to move away from the streets, address their health issues, learn new skills and integrate into society.

Residents are asked to use the Street Link website to report a rough sleeper they are concerned about.  

Anyone who believes they are at risk of becoming homeless should get in touch with North Devon Council as soon as possible on 01271 388870 or email customerservices@northdevon.gov.uk. More information about Freedom Community Alliance is available on their website.