Innovative Safety Scheme Receives New Funding
Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Service’s innovative scheme to help vulnerable adults living rough has received a funding boost.
The Service provides street survival bags to local homelessness charities, which then distribute them to those individuals who most need the help.
Inside the bags – which are waterproof backpacks – are items such as a smoke detector, a tin for cigarette ends and a wind-up lantern. Also provided are personal hygiene items, basic utensils, a first aid kit, a survival blanket and a sleeping bag.
The scheme was piloted in Trowbridge in 2008, proving very successful, and has since rolled out in Salisbury, Chippenham and Swindon, with some 140 bags provided. Amongst the charities to get involved in distributing the bags are Alabaré, Doorway, the Salvation Army and the Drugs & Homeless Initiative.
Wiltshire FRS incident reduction manager Nicola Cocks said: “We know that these bags can make a real difference to someone living rough. We have worked with homeless people to make sure that what we provide is what they need – for example, the smoke detector was included after this research. Our aim is to reduce the risk of fire, and therefore the risk to life.”
As well as helping homeless people to be safer, the initiative helps to provide vital information on where people are sleeping rough. Nicola said: “If we know that a derelict building is used by the homeless, we will know that people could be trapped if a fire is reported. Having that extra intelligence could mean the difference between life and death for someone.”
Each bag costs about £45, and additional bags will soon be made available thanks to a £750 grant from the Chippenham Area Board and a £800 grant from the Salisbury Area Board. An anonymous donation of £120 was also received over the Christmas period, with the cash posted through the letterbox of Salisbury fire station.
Local businesses have been hugely supportive of the scheme. Nicola said: “We are immensely grateful to BCH Camping in both Trowbridge and Chippenham, and to Wilkinsons in Trowbridge, as they have helped us so much with sourcing the items we need. The new funding has enabled us to provide a further 46 bags, to be shared between Chippenham and Salisbury, and we are hoping to secure funding for Trowbridge soon.”
Lisa Lewis, Doorway’s Chief Executive in Chippenham, said: “From the rough sleeper perspective, these Survival kits could prevent unnecessary deaths from hypothermia. Very often people are coming to us with no previous experience of street survival and can find themselves with literally only the clothes they are wearing. By providing a Street Survival Pack, we are ensuring that rough sleepers are adequately prepared for a cold night on the street. We are far more likely to be able to signpost, support and encourage someone to engage with organisations and services if they have managed to have a decent night’s sleep.”