New van offers refuge and support to people on the streets

6th January 2020

Vulnerable young people, sex workers and others at risk of harm and exploitation on the streets of Bournemouth can now seek help and advice from a new outreach van service.

Dorset Working Women’s Project (DWWP), part of NHS Sexual Health Dorset, hits the road in the van three nights a week to provide physical, emotional and sexual health support to those in need.

Offering a warm and comfortable environment, including seats and blankets, the van offers a place of safety and refuge where visitors can discuss their problems and be signposted to a range of local services which can help.

And they can also access items such as toiletries, clothing, food and drink, as well as condoms and safe sex information.

The service was made possible by Dorset HealthCare – lead provider in Sexual Health Dorset – and its annual Dragons’ Den staff innovation competition. Staff successfully bid for more than £5,300 to get the idea off the ground and Pauline Smyth, DWWP Co-ordinator at Dorset HealthCare, said it’s already making a big difference.

“The van has been a fantastic addition to our service. It provides a much needed support to a vulnerable and marginalised group, in a safer and more comfortable environment,” she said.

“It has improved the relationship and communication we have with our service users, giving them a safe place to access the services we offer, as well as providing a confidential and non-judgemental service.”

One woman supported by the DWWP said: “The team means so much to me – they make my life on the streets more bearable. I appreciate their advice and having a shoulder to cry on.

“The new van is amazing, it is a safe place. It also gives more privacy and a chance to jump in, keep warm and enjoy something to eat or drink.”

Other services delivered by the DWWP include contraception and treatment for infections, plus advice on sexual health, safer drug use and personal safety.

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