ROUGH sleeping in Wiltshire has fallen by 52 per cent, following hundreds of thousands of pounds of investment.

Now a five year homelessness strategy has been created to continue helping people whether they are sofa surfing or sleeping rough.

Wiltshire Council was awarded over £600k to open emergency accommodation and hire  a team of staff through the Rough Sleepers Initiative. Figures collected nearly a year ago in November 2018 saw the number of people sleeping rough across the area was down to 22.

But the homelessness strategy isn’t only about rough sleeping, and cash has been invested for teams of support workers to get to the root of why people become homeless.

Cllr Richard Clewer said: “What is far more important is prevention work, so that people at risk can be rehoused and don’t end up on the street. We have also been working with the parole board and armed forces.”

Cllr John Smale said: “The lack of one bedroomed homes has exacerbated the problem, as well as rural poor transport links.

“But our outreach team has helped to engage with people who traditionally chose not to engage with the council and we have seen rough sleeping decrease by 52 per cent.

“As well as this, Wiltshire has not had to rely on Bed and Breakfasts for our emergency placements, which has been the case in other authorities. I am very impressed with the passion shown by the housing teams, from management to front line staff.”

Research found the people most likely to be homeless or sleeping rough are aged 25-44, women with dependent children and people with a mental or physical disability.

Former military personnel and veterans was also highlighted as one group of people who might be at greater risk or sleep rough through choice.

Wiltshire currently has rough sleeper emergency accommodation in Trowbridge, Chippenham and Salisbury.

Cllr Gordon King added: “This strategy has made everybody focus on prevention rather than reaction for first time, this whole strategy has that tone which is refreshing. We had members staff dedicate not just what they do entirely process of prevention.”

Wiltshire Council cabinet recommended that full council approve the homeless strategy for 2019 – 2024 at its next meeting on November 26.