"To date, the council has already found safe accommodation for 14 of the rough sleepers that have been staying at the Great Western Hotel"
In late March, when the lockdown was first put in place, the Government put a call out for all councils to make sure rough sleepers in their areas were housed.
The council’s housing team approached hotels across the borough to see if they could help, and staff at a local Great Western Hotel agreed to help and house rough sleepers.
Twenty-five rough sleepers, which included those who were at risk of rough sleeping, were given accommodation in the hotel, and food and essential supplies have been provided for them throughout their stay.
Other rough sleepers were accommodated in B&Bs and at alternative locations in Swindon.
Working closely with Wiltshire Police and the voluntary sector, members of the council’s homelessness team have monitored the welfare of the rough sleepers and have sought to make their stay as safe and as comfortable as possible.
Cllr Cathy Martyn, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Housing and Public Safety, said: “I would like to say a massive thank you to the Great Western Hotel for opening up its doors to Swindon’s rough sleepers during the lockdown period.
“These last few months have been extremely difficult for a lot of people, especially for those who are among the most vulnerable in society, and we thoroughly appreciate the help of staff and managers at the hotel.”
To date, the council has already found safe accommodation for 14 of the rough sleepers that have been staying at the Great Western Hotel, and these people are currently in the process of moving on. The council will continue to look for accommodation for the remaining guests.
Although the lockdown has eased over recent weeks, the Great Western Hotel has agreed to continue to house the remaining rough sleepers for as long as is needed.
Wiltshire Police Sgt James Neighbour said: “This has been a good example of partnership working including the council and the Great Western Hotel to help protect some of the more vulnerable people in our society.
“During what was, and still is, a difficult time for the homeless and society in general, this afforded those less fortunate some additional protection and help.
“The offer of this hotel makes the work we do as a police force a little bit easier.”
A spokesman from the Great Western Hotel said: “We were approached by the council to help house the Swindon rough sleepers, and at the time of a pandemic we saw this as our civil duty to try to assist.
“While we were apprehensive as to what this may entail, the support given to us by council staff, Wiltshire Police and Threshold Housing Link made the job far easier. We have been providing the guests with two fresh meals per day throughout their stay and we would like to wish everyone who stayed with us and has now been housed the very best for the future.”
Recently their Haven day centre for rough sleepers, run by charity Swindon Night Shelter, reopened for the first time since lockdown. This centre acts as a refuge for rough sleepers and offers a number of health and support services. This will be a key tool in the armoury of the council’s post-COVID response. Swindon Council will also be looking to continue their successful Housing First model soon which they were using before lockdown to help house those sleeping in the streets.