‘I’m grateful to have somewhere warm and dry to sleep’ – Blackburn’s homeless pods welcome first residents

Ten individual pods set up to house rough sleepers throughout winter have welcomed their first guests.

The pods, which have been placed at the former Shadsworth Leisure Centre site in Blackburn have formed part of the council’s SWEP (Severe Winter Emergency Protocol), and will hopefully act as a stepping stone to a better life for those who use them.

So far, nine people are already living in the self-contained pods and in this video, produced by Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, homeless and rough sleeper support worker for the Inspire Drug and Alcohol Service, Tylah Pierce, gives a guided tour of the pods and explains how the initiative will help.

One of the residents who moved in this week said: “I’m so grateful to have somewhere warm and dry to sleep.

“It’s actually really cosy in here.

“Things haven’t worked out with previous accommodation due to my own issues so I hope this will be the start of a new beginning for me.”

The resident said he also feels safe knowing the site is protected by 24/7 security.

Residents living in the pods will benefit from wrap around support available at the site every day to help with addiction and mental health issues with a support network and pathway to a permanent home.

The coronavirus pandemic has meant that the council has had to re-think how it normally offers its emergency winter homeless accommodation with communal provision no longer an option, exacerbated by a number of individuals being banned by all private and third sector providers.

Executive member for adult services and prevention, Councillor Mustafa Desai, said: “We never give up on anyone and have staff working every day offering our support – we don’t want anyone to be sleeping rough in Blackburn with Darwen and this facility, combined with our wider housing offer, means no one has to.

“An awful lot of work has gone into making this happen and through engagement with rough sleepers we hope this will act as a stepping stone towards independent living.

“A smaller individual unit is sometimes what people are looking for.

“Like many other councils, providing emergency winter accommodation has been made more difficult by Covid as we cannot use communal accommodation.

“These pods will form part of the council’s SWEP (Severe Weather Emergency Provision) offer with individual rooms also secured with the Salvation Army and Bowdem court.”

The individual pods, which are insulated, have a bed, toilet, shower, light and key-coded door and have onsite security, offer a safe space for the most vulnerable rough sleepers.

They are being paid for using Government funding, and also have kitchen access and an office for support to run from.

Cllr Desai added: “We are working with many partners across Blackburn with Darwen to support people in their time of need.

“The pods complement our existing offer and we hope to help many more people on their journey out of homelessness.

“This particular location will have the benefit of on-site security, outreach and support teams there seven days a week.

“Residents will have access to everything the council and key agencies can offer to improve their circumstances with the long-term aim of being supported to find secure and independent accommodation and get any help with addiction or mental health support that they need should they chose to accept it.

“This year’s pandemic has put extra financial pressure on many people who were already struggling to get by.”

Anyone who is worried about rent or mortgage arrears, debts or bills should seek help urgently.

There are many organisations, including Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, which can provide support and may be able to prevent someone from losing the roof over their head.

Blackburn with Darwen Council also has an agreement with the Salvation Army that includes food, shower facilities and somewhere to store their property.

Anyone who is homeless or at risk of homelessness and needs advice or support can call 01254 585444 or visit www.blackburn.gov.uk

If you need assistance outside of office hours, you can call: 07739 454978.

The Westmorland Gazette | North Lancs