You can’t miss the Rough Sleepers Intervention Team night bus. The purple double-decker parks at the same place in Cardiff city centre five evenings and one morning a week. Set up three years ago, it acts as a mobile outreach centre offering homeless people tea and coffee, a warm place to stay for three hours and a chance to see a nurse and a social worker.
It is looked after by the Cardiff Bus Company which carries out free maintenance checks. Petrol is also free. Barclays Bank has provided the bulk of the funding.
“The nurse comes on a Friday morning and Wednesday evening, and a social worker comes on Thursday evening,” says outreach worker Nicky Johnson. “Up to 40 people come on the bus every night.”
Johnson has worked for the intervention team for two years and, despite occasional problems with information sharing with some of the smaller voluntary organisations, “we work together excellently”.
News comes from team manager Steve Hyde, who has joined us on the bus, that Jamie, the rough sleeper, has visited the homelessness office and has been found night by night accommodation. “That’s great news,” he says.
He explains the concept behind the night bus service.
“We felt that as Cardiff was set to grow as a city the homelessness problem could also grow. We had to be prepared.
“There was some initial resistance from voluntary organisations to the breakfast run and the night bus. They thought we wanted to replace them but all we wanted to do was to fill in the gaps in their offerings. Access to social care was missing and we could provide that.”
Hyde argues that the success of the city centre team and its close work with voluntary agencies aids recruitment and retention of social workers. “Good social work is good social work. We work odd hours but if Tesco can open late so can we.”