WITH concerns being raised about rough sleepers and homelessness in Basingstoke town centre, a strategic group aims to provide as much help and support as possible.

The Social Inclusion Partnership (SIP) acts as the strategic umbrella for a range of homelessness services in Basingstoke, from prevention and advice through to crisis.

The group is made of partners including Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council’s housing team, community safety patrol officers, housing associations, Camrose Day Centre, Basingstoke Voluntary Action, Julian House, Food Bank and Hampshire Constabulary.

Mostimportantly itincludes people who have lived on the streets who can provide valuable experience and input.

So far, the SIP has commissioned specialist outreach rough sleeping support services within the borough and spearheaded campaigns to educate the public, such as the Real Change, Not Loose Change Campaign.

Councillor Terri Reid, chair of the SIP, said: “Everyone needs to work as part of this for it to work.

“It is a great forum where people can bounce ideas off each other, and if we have the collective knowledge, rough sleepers aren’t being bounced from one place to the next.”

As previously reported in The Gazette, the borough council, along with the SIP, has taken a leading role in helping the rising number of rough sleepers and homeless people in the town.

Mike Browning, a volunteer for Camrose Day Centre which provides facilities for rough sleepers, added; “With the help of the SIP and generous benefactors, Camrose will extend its opening to 11 hours on three days a week from later this month.

“Camrose will be able to give personal support focused on individual needs to help find solutions to the difficult circumstances in which people find themselves.”

Amanda Dubarry, chief executive of homeless charity Step by Step, added: “As a result of the partnership approach taken in Basingstoke, there is a more cohesive approach to service delivery, a higher quality of offer for those using services and a greater focus on continuous development of services. This can only serve to make the community better for us all.”

For information, visit basingstoke.gov.uk/real-change.