The number of rough sleepers in Taunton has dropped by more than a third.
Figures verified by the Department for Communities and Local Government this week, from a head count in November, show 14 rough sleepers in Taunton compared to 23 at the same time last year.
The reduction follows a multi-agency effort to identify and address the issues of real concern and develop a joined-up service to help rough sleepers break the cycle of homelessness and addiction.
Taunton Deane Borough Council’s rough sleeping co-ordinators and streetwise officers have been working with partners including the Police, ARC, Open Door, Somerset County Council, the health sector and other support agencies since March.
The Council was also awarded £231,590 this year from the Government’ Rough Sleepers Initiative Fund, to pay for specialist support to assist rough sleepers into accommodation and through the transition to independent living.
Cllr Jane Warmington, Executive Councillor for Community Leadership, said: “This significant reduction is very welcome news and shows the positive impact this ongoing initiative is having. It is testament to the effort of everyone involved and the commitment there is to addressing as far as possible the causes and problems of rough sleeping. Together they are working proactively to provide the necessary support to individual rough sleepers who are benefitting from this as well as the wider community.”
The initial project is now being carried forward with a renewed multi-agency initiative under the new name of Taunton Streetwise. It kicked off this month with Shine a Light week to address the health and wellbeing issues faced by the street homeless.
Throughout the week rough sleepers were given food and shelter at a night café run by volunteers from a number of Taunton churches; free health checks and medical treatment in a mobile clinic provided by South Western Ambulance Service and manned by triage nurses from Musgrove Park Hospital and Somerset Partnership NHS Foundation Trust; access to Somerset County Council’s social services team; and advice on finding accommodation, benefits and support from TDBC’s housing options team.
The Council has also employed street wardens to provide reassurance for shoppers and visitors throughout the festive season, and to ensure that vulnerable rough sleepers are supported.