The Next Stop for The Bus Shelter

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“The Next Stop” for The Bus Shelter IOW

The Bus Shelter opened its doors here on The Isle of Wight in November 2016. We were housed temporarily at Seaclose Park by the former council who were supportive and proactive in seeing the project operate. They allowed the project to operate from the park while an alternative site was sought. The project was founded to make a permanent cost effective provision for the homeless spurred on by the lack of established shelter on the Island following the closure of a temporary shelter established at Downside. The bus was in operation for a little over 6 months and in that time we housed and supported over 30 homeless individuals with many complex issues. In May this year we had to vacate the temporary site at Seaclose to make way for the yearly Isle of Wight festival. The current council were not prepared to allow us to resume service from Seaclose.

The former council had identified a permanent site for the bus but due to a number of concerns regarding the costings of making that site ready for use talks stalled and subsequently the provision to use the land was withdrawn by the new council. It has been the position of the current council that any vacant plots have been tenant and where possible excess land sold. We have clarified our position with regard to funding on a number of occasions that we have not sought access to land for free or expected the costs to be met by the council. We have a number of supportive business operators who are willing to assist in works and we have been prepared to bear any costs and rents to meet requirements. Despite investing much time in meaningful dialogue on our part with the council for many months we have not secured a site.

The Bus Shelter IOW have cooperated with the council and addressed concerns about the service operating from a converted bus. The Adult Safeguarding Board conducted a review of the service and raised concerns. We provided extensive documentation and clarified some misconceptions. The Adult Safeguarding team concluded that there was no action to be taken and were satisfied with the review that we had taken. We had identified areas for improvement and made robust changes to our project which is about positive outcomes for people in need.

The Bus Shelter IOW has reviewed a long term strategy to take the project forward following the difficulties in securing a site. Those plans are being taken forward. The project has struggled to find a suitable site which will allow us to operate safely and provide the necessary services needed by those in need. That need is still clear and evident.

We understand the concerns for those who may have land or be close in the community near the project but we would still welcome anyone who does have land that could be used.

The last months have been a very difficult time for the project that has been hindered from operating having demonstrated the positive outcomes that can be achieved. We have not received the support needed from the local authority.

Using a bus was conceived as a cost effective means to provide emergency shelter and support at a time that there was none.  The Bus Shelter is a unique project that is inclusive of all and allows the opportunity for those who have been failed to gain support in rebuilding their lives. The bus encourages the sense of community and allows users to learn from the experiences of our volunteers and from each other. We are proud of the fact that this project embraces everyone regardless of their needs, gender, race and religion. We never give up on anyone and we do not exclude anyone from the project. We have tried to secure sites through private land owners but availability through the private sector is sparse.

We are proud the project has been adopted in other areas and delivered the much needed assistance with more and more enquiries being made by council housing teams across the UK. It is however sad that the birth place of the project has not been sustainable.

In the most recent months we have been refocusing on the role that the bus shelter here on the island plays in services believing that following confirmation from deputy leader Stuart Hutchinson that a provision had been agreed with another organisation and resources put in place to provide that provision. It is our intention as an organisation to continue the work in this sector but as a homeless shelter that is effectively homeless it does raise some questions. We believe that a singular provider vision is not the solution. The Bus Shelter was put under great pressure last year as the only operator in this sector. It is vital that all organisations work together playing their part. It is also clear that areas need to explore alternative ways of assisting those in need.

In order to move forward and considering the issues that we have experienced providing a permanent service for homeless individuals. We have identified premises that are available and suitable to provide an established and permanent home for the project and that will allow us to expand to provide a better service. We are in the process of putting plans in place to secure a sustainable solution inclusive of all. It is our view that housing those who are in desperate need of safety and supportive shelter is a permanent need with a greater emphasis on preventative support and advice as well as practical shelter as an effective solution. We do have the resources to provide alongside others but the failure to provide that solution has not been because of our lack of trying. Our proposed plan is to move the project into a building that is able to deliver a focused and safe service that deals with the complex needs. The Bus Shelter IOW is a registered non-profit charity whose focus is on delivering this service provision.

We are however deeply concerned that the provision that had been put in place by the council has been difficult to deliver when assurances were made that the resources were in place. We are raising those concerns with the council and will continue to monitor the impact. I would ask that anyone who can help as little or as much as they can put themselves forward to make sure those in need have somewhere safe and warm to go.

We are grateful for the support from both the public and business sector and the continued support.