Could these 'Safe Space' sleeping pods be the way to help the homeless in our cities?

Charity Amazing Grace Spaces unveiled the pods in October 2018, hoping they could help tackle the rise in the number of rough sleepers in many cities, but had been unable to get funding or a site to keep them on.

Last month they opened the first two in Newport, Wales, thanks to a businessman who gave them permission to set up on his site.

Residents get access to a bed, light, toilet and phone charger, in return for promising to keep a ‘dry house’ and to take part in 10 hours per week of work, volunteering or training.

Now one rough sleeper in Newport has said he believes it may have “saved” his life.

The man, who is not being named, had become so desperate to sleep somewhere warm he was prepared to commit a crime in order to have access to a “warm prison cell”.

The Oxford Times: Inside the podsInside the pods

He became homeless in 2016 and said he has since divided his time between sleeping in doorways and tents in the city centre.

The 39-year-old, from Pill, said: “I was only moments away from doing something that would get me in prison,” he said. “It was so, so cold. It was freezing in the tent. I honestly thought I might die. The only place that I knew which would be warm is prison.”

But that all changed after he was invited by the charity Amazing Grace Spaces to use one of their newly-opened sleeping pods.

The Oxford Times: The pod in useThe pod in use

Two pods opened in Newport last month after a businessman gave permission for them to be placed on land at the back of his site.

The man, who moved into one of the pods four weeks ago, said he now feels more positive about his future.

He said: “I love the pod. It is warm and dry. It is my new temporary home.

“You have everything you need in there really.

“I feel safe in there - that was not the case in the tent.

“Everyone has said I am looking better since being in the pod.

“It really did save my life.

“I now want to go into supportive living - that is my aim. I feel that my life is turning around.

The Oxford Times: Inside the podsInside the pods

And he has also called for more of the pods to be installed.

“I want to thank Stuart and Caroline Johnson, of Amazing Grace Spaces charity, for inviting me into the pod.”

The pods cost £5,500 each. The charity, which also builds bespoke modular homes for local councils and housing associations, under its subsidiary company Homes First, with all profits going back to help homeless people.

Newport residents have since welcomed the arrival of the pods, with one rough sleeper saying the scheme had stopped him committing crime just to have access to a "warm prison cell".

Allt-yr-yn resident Jon Millership said: “This is great work from the charity and those who have helped make it possible. Anything that helps people without a home is good in my opinion.

“It gives an emergency lifeline to rough sleepers.

“Rather than battle the cold, they can be inside one of these great pods.”

Laura Williams, who lives in Cardiff Road, said: "There are too many homeless people out there.

"If homeless people are using them then they must work. It is important to get rough sleepers off the street and somewhere safe at night.

"This could save lives."

And David Prosser, of George Street, added: "I hope they work. There shouldn't be anyone in 21st century Britain who is homeless.

"I have been over to see the pods and if they can turn people's lives around then I will support them."

However, one resident expressed his reservation.

"I do not think they can make a difference," said George Street resident Basil Sujeeun.

"My understanding is that the pods give temporary accommodation. So how will it work in the long term?

"Rough sleepers need help but I do not think this will work."

He added: "I just hope they do not get vandalised."

The charity plans to increase the number of pods in Newport by two in the next few weeks.