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Workshops helping former rough sleepers learn new skills

Former rough sleepers are learning skills needed to get into work by creating pieces of garden furniture thanks to a new project.

People who used to live on the street are learning carpentry at a workshop run by the Second Half scheme, organsed by Bournemouth Christians Alongside Rough Sleepers (BCARS) and funded by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Dorset.

A group of former rough sleepers have been creating items such as planters out of recycled timber, ready for keen gardeners to buy in the spring, while a craft fair held just before Christmas – in which they sold decorations they had made – was so popular they ran out of stock.

Now, project lead Alan Purchase hopes to start selling their items from a shop later this year – and even wants to start taking commissions.

He said: “It’s very early days now, but the success of the Christmas fair shows this can work. As well as learning carpentry, they’re developing skills around interacting with the public which can help them get into employment or even set up their own businesses.

“These are people who are now off the street, but trying to get them to stay off the street is a major challenge and this project is about giving them meaningful activity.”

The scheme also runs a weekly café at St George’s Methodist Church in Boscombe between 10am-1pm every Monday, in which former rough sleepers learn catering and customer service skills.

Meanwhile, another project funded by the OPCC’s Safer Dorset Fund enables groups to work better together to help homeless people.

The web-based Street Support system, launched by the Bournemouth Homelessness Action Collaborative, contains information for people who need to find help, as well for those who want to volunteer, donate, or who have spotted rough sleepers but are not sure what to tell them.

Organisers say the site, based on a similar scheme running in Manchester, provides a one-stop shop for those who want to help and those in need of help.

Alistair Doxat-Purser of BCARS said: “We’ve seen people get into volunteering through this because the site makes it much easier to know what’s needed and what they’re able to do. We know that a lot of the groups who regularly work helping rough sleepers are using it now, and it’s making it much easier for these groups to work together.”

Martyn Underhill, Police and Crime Commissioner for Dorset, said: “Rough sleeping is an incredibly complicated issue which require support from a wide range of different organisations, and both of these projects are providing an important service in helping people get off the street – and more importantly, stay off the streets."
The Safer Dorset Fund Community Grant Scheme is funded by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Dorset.

The funding is short term and enables innovative projects to get off the ground. These projects have to demonstrate they provide a benefit to people living in Dorset and help make the county a better and safer place.Applications are accepted for projects that deliver to neighbourhood areas, wider local communities such as towns and villages, or to the whole of Dorset.

The scheme provides small grants of between £100 and £3,000 to charities and community interest companies who are able to show evidence of how they will make Dorset a safer place and increase public reassurance.

The fund is aimed at addressing the key priorities of the PCC’s Police and Crime Plan: protecting people at risk of harm; working with our communities; supporting victims, witnesses and reducing reoffending; and transforming for the future.

Partner organisations are now benefiting from funding which is being used to commission services which otherwise would not exist.

More information about how community groups can apply for funding can be found here.


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