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Funding pledged to help homeless and vulnerable people this winter

Hampshire County Council approves £6,500 grant to run new winter watch scheme to help homeless people in Rushmoor this winter

Homeless man tries to stay warm during a cold winter

Thousands of pounds will be spent on a project to give rough sleepers a hot meal and a roof over their heads during the coldest months.

Hampshire County Council has agreed to pledge £6,500 into a new winter watch scheme to provide a safe place to stay to vulnerable homeless people in Rushmoor.

The project, which started last week and will continue until next March, will provide a meal for up to 10 rough sleepers at any one time to prevent winter deaths and support engagement with support services and access to health and wellbeing services.

Delivered by volunteers and coordinated by the charity, The Vine Day Centre in Aldershot, the shelter will open when the temperature goes below freezing and operate from its Source Café.

Henry Worthy, housing project coordinator at the charity, said: “This is an important project as it can help people who could otherwise freeze to death.

“We had a savage winter last year with temperatures below freezing.

“Homeless people are often not as fit as you or I, they are more vulnerable and susceptible to illness and are generally quite low physically and emotionally.”

Following a risk assessment, shelter guests will be provided with a hot meal from The Source Café and support with issues such as housing and benefits.

If more than 10 people turn up at one time, Hart District Council will consider bed and breakfast options to those in need.

Funding 'absolutely vital'

The Vine Day Centre has been supporting homeless and vulnerable adults in north-east Hampshire, specifically in Aldershot and Farnborough, for the last 25 years.

Step By Step is a similar charity in Aldershot that helps particularly young people who are faced with homelessness.

A spokesman for Step by Step said: “Funding for vulnerable homeless people, particularly in winter is absolutely vital.

“Mental, physical and emotional health can deteriorate rapidly, especially among those who are street homeless.

“Young people in particular can be quickly drawn into a downward spiral which leads to depression, substance misuse, and petty crime.

“Services such as night accommodation or drop-in advice and information centres offer cost-effective solutions to help those most in need.

“By contrast, the cost to the public purse and the burden on public resources such as the NHS, police, judiciary and emergency services can be considerable if funding isn’t made available.”

He said charities such as Step by Step provide early intervention that can help to turn young lives around.

The county council agreed to invest in the winter watch project at a meeting last Wednesday (November 27), approving £351,399 for various health and wellbeing programmes including five in Hart and Rushmoor.

Other such schemes included an interpreting service for the Nepalese community and a research project to help identify the causes of increased risk drinking at home.

Dr Ruth Milton, director of public health at the county council, said in her report: “Not awarding these grants would limit the ability of district and borough councils in their role of improving health and reducing inequality, which directly contributes to meeting the objectives of the joint health and wellbeing strategy.”

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